Arab governments and Turkey have increased arms shipments to the opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad in recent months with the help of the CIA, The New York Times reported on Monday, citing flight data, rebel commanders and officials in several countries.
Weapons have been airlifted on a small scale since early 2012, but the pace of airlifts has increased since November, according to the report. Jordanian, Qatari and Saudi military cargo planes have been transporting the weapons to Turkish and Jordanian airports after which the weapons are funnled into rebel fighters in Syria.
The CIA's role in the weapons airlifts is mostly consultative, with agents helping Arab governments shop for weapons, including in Croatia, as well as determining which rebel commanders should receive the military aid, the Times quoted US officials as saying.
The Times quoted a former US official as saying former CIA director David Petraeus had played a major role in initiating the aviation network and getting the different countries involved to coordinate their efforts.
The US government, believing that other states would be arming the rebels anyway, involved the CIA in the project in order to gain a modicum of control over who the weapons were going to and which type of weapons were being sent, according to the official. The US wished to steer weapons shipments away from Islamists and prevent the shipping of weapons that could be used in future terror attacks, he added.