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Report: CIA 'Feeding Intelligence' to Syrian Rebel Fighters

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Trying to counter the rise of Islamic extremists.

Rebels take position inside a building at Saif al-Dawla district in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on March 23, 2013. In Aleppo, nine months into fighting that has devastated many districts, life has slowly started to return to what passes for normal in Syria today. (Getty Images)

Rebels take position inside a building at Saif al-Dawla district in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on March 23, 2013. (Getty Images)

The CIA is "feeding intelligence" to certain Syrian rebel fighters to use against President Bashar Assad’s regime, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The agency is aiding only secular rebel forces to try and counter the rise of Islamic extremists now overtaking parts of rebel-held Syria:

Syrian opposition commanders said the CIA has been working with British, French and Jordanian intelligence services to train rebels on the use of various kinds of weapons. A senior Western official said the intelligence agencies are providing the rebels with urban combat training as well as teaching them how to properly use antitank weapons against Syrian bunkers.

The agencies are also teaching counterintelligence tactics to help prevent pro-Assad agents from infiltrating the opposition, the official said.

At the same time, the U.S. is sharing only "limited" information because the CIA doesn't know whether it can fully trust the rebels, including withholding where American and Israeli intelligence believe the Syrian government keeps its chemical weapons, according to the Journal.

The CIA's actions don't change the U.S.'s decision not to directly intervene militarily:

President Barack Obama last year rejected a CIA-backed proposal to provide arms to secular units fighting Mr. Assad, and on Friday he reiterated his argument that doing so could worsen the bloodshed.

He also warned that Mr. Assad's fall could empower extremists. "I am very concerned about Syria becoming an enclave for extremism because extremists thrive in chaos, they thrive in failed states, they thrive in power vacuums," Mr. Obama said at a news conference in Amman, Jordan.

The United Nations announced this week that it will investigate claims that chemical weapons were deployed in Syria, allegations Obama said would be a "game changer" if true.

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