(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Two Western-backed Syrian militant groups fighting the Syrian army in southeastern Syria have been asked by their Western and Arab backers to pull out of the area and retreat into Jordan, militants and diplomatic sources said on Sunday.
Both Usoud al-Sharqiya and Martyr Ahmad Abdo, part of the so-called Free Syrian Army group, said they were told to end fighting in the area by their backers from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and neighboring states that support them, which include Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
“There is a official request for us to leave the area,” said Badr al Din al Salamah, a senior official in the Usoud al Sharqiya group, one of the main militant groups in the area and a recipient of the military aid from the U.S.-backed alliance.
Western diplomatic sources said the request was tied to a decision by the administration of U.S. President Trump in July to halt the CIA’s program to equip and train militant groups fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The CIA program began in 2013 as part of efforts by the administration of then-President Barack Obama to overthrow Assad.
In a letter purportedly to militant commanders and seen by Reuters, they were told they although they had fought bravely to fend off the Syrian army, their presence in a small enclave now posed a threat to them.
The decision has caused disaffection among hundreds of militants in the two groups, who consider withdrawing into Jordan as effectively disbanding their forces.
The two groups, who have hundreds of militants, will have to hand over heavy artillery and dozens of U.S.-made anti-tank missiles, militants say.
In a meeting on Saturday, the militant commanders told the joint operations center in Jordan that requested their withdrawal they would rather “stay and die” in the desert than leave the battlefield.
“We have rejected the request, since if we entered Jordan we would consider it the end ... the blood of our martyrs has not dried yet,” said al-Salameh.
Another militant official said they were not necessarily opposed to withdrawing, but they wanted assurances from Jordan they could lobby to expand to the Badia area a U.S.-Russian-brokered ceasefire, which has halted fighting in southwest Syria.
“We have accepted in principle and there are matters that have to be resolved. But until this moment there is no final agreement on withdrawing and we are still in the Badia and still fighting and in our posts,” said Said Seif, a spokesman of the Martyr Ahmad Abdo group.