An internal review conducted by the CIA found that U.S. financing, training, and arming foreign fighters has seldom worked in the past 70 years. According to The New York Times (hat tip to Drugs and Thugs Blog), the Obama administration asked the CIA to report on the subject when the White House was considering whether to increase aid to Syrian rebels in 2012 and 2013. The CIA found that there was only one significant example of support to rebels that was effective in the short-term, which was aid to the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s—an initiative now viewed as a long-term strategic blunder that contributed to the eventual rise of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Nevertheless, the Obama administration has shifted course and decided to arm and fund “vetted, moderate,” Syrian rebels anyway. Funding the rebels has likewise been championed by interventionists including John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Hillary Clinton.
Other studies have shown even worse consequences than the CIA’s report. Rather than just being ineffective, such efforts tend to make matters worse according to Dr. Marc Lynch:
In general, external support for rebels almost always make wars longer, bloodier and harder to resolve (for more on this, see the proceedings of this Project on Middle East Political Science symposium in the free PDF download). Worse, as the University of Maryland’s David Cunningham has shown, Syria had most of the characteristics of the type of civil war in which external support for rebels is least effective…
Why are we choosing the least effective option?