American-made anti-tank missiles are surfacing in Syria as part of a "pilot program" to boost rebel groups but make sure the powerful weapons do not fall into the wrong hands, USA Today reported.
The anti-tank missiles, called TOWs, are sophisticated weapons designed to kill enemy tanks and blow up reinforced bunkers.
The new program is meant to aid the rebels fighting the Syrian government's armored forces but make sure the weapons don't reach radical Islamist groups also fighting the regime of Bashar Assad, said a former senior government official who has been informally briefed on the program. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss intelligence matters.
"They will try this first and see how it goes" before expanding it, said the former official.
Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, would not comment on specific weapons or types of support, but told USA TODAY there has been "a limited expansion" of support to rebel groups.
Military analysts say the presence of TOW missiles would not change the balance of power in Syria, where the Assad regime has blunted the momentum of rebels in many areas of the country.
"They are not a golden BB that is going to bring down a regime," said Jeffrey White, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former Defense Intelligence Agency official.