Britain planned to train and equip 100,000 Syrian rebels

Secret initiative planned to train rebels to fight the Assad government a year later by marching on Damascus, a BBC Newsnight investigation discloses

Britain planned to train and equip 100,000 Syrian rebels for a shock and awe campaign to defeat President Bashar al-Assad.

General David Richards, who was then the UK’s most senior military officer, drew up the plans two years ago, according to the BBC’s Newsnight.

The move was considered by David Cameron, the National Security Council and US officials but the plans were deemed to be too ambitious.

The Prime Minister had at the time being pressing for military intervention in Syria following the use of chemical weapons in the country, but in August 2013 MPs voted against the measure.

At the time the Assad government denied being the perpetrators of the chemical weapons attack and blamed rebels.

According to the BBC, Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, as the former chief of defence staff is now known, believed the initiative could help control civilian bloodshed during the war.

Syrian rebels would have been vetted and trained in bases in bordering countries Turkey and Jordan over a 12-month period and they would then march on Damascus with the cover of Western and Gulf fighter jets.

It would have been a similar tactic to that used in 2003 against Saddam Hussein’s military in Iraq and sources told Newsnight Lord Richards, then chief of the defence staff, told the UK government that the only ways to end the civil war swiftly was to let Assad win or to defeat him.

Full article: Britain planned to train and equip 100,000 Syrian rebels (The Telegraph)

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