U.S. May Start New Military Training Program for Syrian Rebels

Syrian rebels hold their weapons as they prepare to fight against Syrian troops, in Homs province, Syria. Syrian rebels hold their weapons as they prepare to fight against Syrian troops, in Homs province, Syria. Rebels Battalion of Baba Amro/AP File Photo

President Barack Obama may announce today that the U.S. Army will start to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels, heeding a three-year call from the Syrian opposition for more help against Bashar al-Assad, despite fears that such a program could ultimately put the U.S. at risk. 

Yesterday, a senior White House official told the Wall Street Journal that the president is poised to make a statement about counterterrorism in Syria during a commencement address at the U.S. Military Academy today, explaining that:

The president will make clear his intention to expand our support to the moderate Syrian operation and increase our support to Syria's neighbors, who are dealing with the terrorist threats emanating from the situation Assad has created in Syria. 

The plan would be for a limited number of American troops to train carefully selected members of the Free Syrian Army in counterterrorism operations in Jordan. A number of other countries, like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and, naturally, Jordan, could participate in the program. And, per theWall Street Journal, the mission could expand some training already being done in a covert CIA operation, which has fallen short of rebel expectations: 

Syrian opposition leaders have long complained about the size of the CIA's covert arming-and-training program, which began last summer after months of delay, arguing that an overt U.S. military-led program could sharply increase the number of rebels in training. Under a new arrangement still under discussion within the administration, the U.S. military would overtly conduct most of the training, and the CIA would take the lead in providing arms covertly.

Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a measure to allow the military to provide training and equipment to vetted rebels. However, according to the Associated Press, the move is still being discussed among senior officials and Obama might not divulge details of the plan at the event. 

When asked by the AP about the program, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki offered a guarded statement, saying: 

We have been clear that we see Syria as a counterterrorism challenge, and therefore certainly we factor that in, in options we consider... 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.

According to the official, members of the administration have concluded that Syrian President Bashar al Assad, who has been accused of war crimes, will continue on his stubborn path of resistance against the opposition unless the situation changes on the ground. But officials fear that any training, or arms, given to Syrian rebels — even the most moderate ones – could make its way back to al-Qaeda militants who would use the tactics against the America. Terrorist groups like, the al-Nusra Fronthave attacked both Assad's forces and the rebels, making it difficult to even sort out who the U.S. should be supporting.

Secretary of State John Kerry also revealed on Wednesday that Obama is also planning to announce a $5 billion "terrorism partnership fund" that will help other nations fight back against terrorism, as well. 

More than 150,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, since it broke out more than three years ago. 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.