U.S. military equipment and ammunition, sent to Syria as part of a failed Obama administration plan to find and arm moderate forces to defeat ISIS, were instead simply handed over to an Al Qaeda group, according to the man who said he himself brokered the deal.
“I communicated with Al Qaeda’s branch, Al Nusra, to protect and safely escort me and my soldiers for two hours from North Aleppo to West Aleppo,” Maj. Anas Ibrahim Obaid, better known on the battlefield as Abu Zayd, told Fox News from his home in the western Aleppo area. “In exchange, I gave them five pickup trucks and ammunition.”
Maj. Anas Ibrahim Obaid, better known on the battlefield as Commander Abu Zayd, admitted to Fox News that he gave US-issued trucks and ammunition to Al Qaeda in Syria.
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Those trucks and ammo were issued to him by the United States in 2015, part of a $500 million Department of Defense effort to “train and equip” a new “ideologically moderate” force to battle ISIS. The program, one of at least two designed to funnel arms to so-called moderate Syrian rebels, proved to be a spectacular failure for the Obama administration.
Zayd, who said he defected from the Syrian Army to the opposition in 2012, described a program that was rife with inconsistencies and incompetencies.
He claimed the main prerequisite for inclusion in the program was proof of association with a group that had fought ISIS, the Islamic State. That was followed by a few basic questions, like, “With which faction did you fight?” and “What do you think about ISIS?”
After undergoing training in Turkey, the first batch of 54 trained fighters crossed back to Syria in July 2015 – only to be almost instantly ambushed by Al Nusra militants. Several of the men were kidnapped, and their U.S.-issued weapons were stolen.
Zayd said he was part of a second group to be sent into Syria — this time without proper firepower.
The U.S. trainers “wanted us to go into Syria without weapons because of the ambush, and said we could get the weapons inside instead. This was crazy,” Zayd recalled. “We refused.”
The weapons issue was worked out, and the rebels eventually started their journey back to Syria on Sept. 19. But Turkish border guards found something else in their bags: Syrian regime flags, rather than the flags of the opposition group the fighters were being sent to support.
Zayd said fighters charged back to their base in Turkey, demanding answers. U.S trainers took responsibility for the “flag mistake,” Zayd said, and the following day the rebels continued back to Syria.
Abu Zayd’s ammunition warehouse, believed to hold some American-issued items.
But morale was already a problem, Zayd said, and fighters who were being paid a $250 monthly salary by the Defense Department began defecting. His group of 72 shrank to just 25, he said.
Zayd said he, too, became quickly fed up with the program and planned to return to his hometown in western Aleppo to fight the Syrian regime.
But getting home entailed moving through Al Nusra territory. That’s when he called the Al Qaeda-affiliated leaders and made the arrangement to hand over the five U.S-issued trucks and scores of ammunition, in exchange for free passage and an armed escort home.
“The Americans were so angry when they found out, they cut my salary,” Zayd said nonchalantly. “But this was our only option through their territory to get home without getting killed.”
Zayd said the Pentagon halted the troubled program about a month after his deal with Al Nusra. “I got many messages the Americans do not want to deal with me anymore. But they can’t get their weapons back,” he boasted.
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