Qatar Runs Covert Desert Training Camp For Syrian Rebels

Rebel fighters prepare to fire a machine gun towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Jabal al-Akrad area in Syria's northwestern Latakia province

Gulf state Qatar is covertly training moderate Syrian rebels at a desert base with U.S. help to fight both the Islamic State and President Bashar al-Assad and may include more overtly Islamist insurgent groups, sources close to the matter has said. Reuters report:

The camp, south of the capital between Saudi Arabia’s border and Al Udeid, the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East, is being used to train the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and other moderate rebels, the sources said.

Reuters could not independently identify the participants in the program or witness activity inside the base, which lies in a military zone guarded by Qatari special forces and marked on signposts as a restricted area.

But Syrian rebel sources said training in Qatar has included rebels affiliated to the “Free Syrian Army” from northern Syria.

The sources said the effort had been running for nearly a year, although it was too small to have a significant impact on the battlefield, and some rebels complained of not being taught advanced techniques.