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Free Syrian Army groups seek resumption of CIA funding

Free Syrian Army members are seen on October 27, 2016 [Hüseyin Nasır/Anadolu Agency]
Free Syrian Army members are seen on October 27, 2016 [Hüseyin Nasır/Anadolu Agency]

Representatives from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have urged US officials at talks in Washington to resume a suspended CIA program of military aid in order to count Iranian influence in Syria, according to Reuters.

Mustafa Sejari, a senior official in the opposition group, said on Monday that the envoys described to US officials the damaging impact of President Donald Trump's decision to stop funding armed groups on the ground.

"We endorse President Trump's statements about the need to confront Iranian hegemony in the region. It is time to turn words into action. Until now on the ground it's the Iranian militias that are expanding without serious resistance," Serjari said. "We asked for the resumption of aid and explained the dangers of leaving moderate FSA forces without support."

The delegation also criticised the administration of former President Barak Obama, saying that he had given Iran a "free ride" in Syria.

"In all our talks with US officials there was common ground, and on top of the matters discussed was the war on terrorism, (and) expelling Hezbollah and Iranian militias from Syria," Sejari said.

The delegation met with members of the US Congress and White House officials; they also hope to meet with representatives from the Defence and State over the course of the week.

Read: Russia accuses US of seeking to undermine Sochi Conference

The request comes amid a US announcement that will continue to aid the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and aim to establish a 30,000 strong force along the Syrian border with Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the decision on Monday, stating that Turkish forces would launch an offensive on the Kurdish-held region of Afrin in response. The Kurdish militias are believed to be associated with the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), a designated terror organisation that has launched continual attacks in Turkey for the past three decades.

Erdogan also told reporters that Turkish forces would be supported in their attack by Syrian opposition groups. Whilst he did not specify the FSA, Turkey has had much contact with the group as one of their primary backers.

Should the CIA resume their funding of certain groups in Syria, it may affect which elements of the Syrian opposition choose to support the Turkish fight against the US-backed SDF.

American and Turkish relations have deteriorated over the past year due to American backing given to Kurdish forces. The Kurds have gained crucial ground in the conflict, including oil fields in the eastern province of Deir Ez-Zor. Militia leaders have also expressed their desire to establish an independent Kurdistan in the lands they have occupied that will be governed by federalism.

Read: 'Turkey's Syria operation cannot be limited to Afrin'

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