With Washington facing the risk of more Al Qaeda splinter groups pouring into Syria from Iraq, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is increasing "support to elite Iraqi antiterrorism groups."
The goal is to shut down Iraqi-based groups who have "strong ties" to the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front in the Syrian opposition.
Starting in late 2011 and throughout 2012, the White House "directed the CIA to provide support to Iraqi's Counterterrorism Service" (CTS). At first it appears the CIA fulfilled this directive side-by-side with U.S. Special Forces but has recently taken sole control of the mission.
The CIA's increased role in Iraq "compliments" other efforts against the Nusra Front in countries like Turkey and Jordan.
The increased use of the CIA allows the Obama admin to stick by the earlier pledge to avoid direct intervention in the Syrian conflict by putting America's focus at a fight along the edges. In this way, the U.S. is not on the Syrian battlefield but is intervening via covert operations to shut down various Al Qaeda affiliates in an attempt to root them out of the Syrian opposition.