Report: U.S. troops set to train Syrian rebels

Published May 28th, 2014 - 06:31 GMT

Agence France Presse reported this week that U.S. President Barack Obama is planning to authorize the country's armed forces to train selected groups of Syrian rebels.

The latest move from Washington has been described as an effort to combat the growing power of Al Qaeda-linked opposition groups in Syria, according to a U.S. newspaper report.

"The president will make clear his intention to expand [U.S.] support to the moderate Syrian operation and increase [U.S.] support to Syria's neighbors, who are dealing with the terrorist threats emanating from the situation Assad has created in Syria," a senior administration official told the Wall Street Journal.

The White House has yet to officially confirm the plan, but officials have not denied the development either, saying that it is "constantly considering available options to combat the terrorist threat emanating from Syria and to facilitate an end to the crisis." Some believe that Obama will announce the plan during a speech Wednesday at West Point Academy, according to the AFP article.

No specific details were indicated in the WSJ article regarding number of troops or location of training.

Until this point, U.S. aid to Syria has been limited to the form of non-lethal aid worth $287 million. However many reports indicate that the CIA may be involved in a secret training program in Jordan for "moderate" rebels.

"The current policy approach continues to be strengthening the moderate opposition, which offers an alternative to the brutal Assad regime and the more extremist elements within the opposition," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

The U.S. formally recognized the Syrian opposition earlier this year when Syrian opposition National Coalition leader Ahmad Jarba visited Washington in an appeal for the White House to provide more support to the "moderate" rebels on the ground. 

However, the rise of the Al Qaeda-linked opposition in Syria has complicated the U.S. stance on the conflict, limiting Washington's interest in providing support to rebels if there is a chance that such aid would end up in the hands of the hardline extremist groups such as Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 


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