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Obama seeks $500M to train, equip Syrian rebels

By
From page A1 | June 27, 2014 |

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama asked Congress Thursday for $500 million to train and arm vetted members of the Syrian opposition, as the U.S. struggles for a way to stem a civil war that has also fueled the al-Qaida inspired insurgency in neighboring Iraq.

The military training program would deepen the Obama administration’s involvement in the more than four-year conflict between rebels and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. If approved by Congress, the program would supplement a covert train-and-assistance program run by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The Syria program is part of a broader $65.8 billion overseas operations request that the administration sent to Capitol Hill Thursday. The package includes $1 billion to help stabilize nations bordering Syria that are struggling with the effects of the civil war. It also formalizes a request for a previously announced $1 billion to strengthen the U.S. military presence in Central and Eastern Europe amid Russia’s threatening moves in Ukraine.

The requests come as Obama faces fresh criticism of his restrained policies in Syria, which some White House opponents contend allowed the Sunni insurgency pressing through Iraq to gain strength. U.S. officials increasingly see the instability in Syria and Iraq as a single challenge, with the border between the two countries increasingly blurred.

Obama hinted earlier this year that he was seeking ways to boost assistance to moderate Syrian rebels who are struggling to make gains in their clashes with Assad’s forces.

“In helping those who fight for the right of all Syrians to choose their own future, we also push back against the growing number of extremists who find safe haven in the chaos,” Obama told graduating cadets during a May 28 commencement address at West Point.

Officials said the administration would coordinate with Congress and regional players on the specific types of training and assistance the U.S. would provide the opposition. One potential option would be to base U.S. personnel in Jordan and conduct the training exercise there.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has already approved a version of the sweeping defense policy bill authorizing the Defense Department to provide “equipment, supplies, training and defense services” to elements of the Syrian opposition that have been screened. The Senate could act on the bill before the August recess.

In addition to the covert train-and-equip mission, the U.S. has also provided nearly $287 million in nonlethal assistance to the moderate opposition.

The military program would be supplemented by $1 billion in assistance to Syria’s neighbors — Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq — to help them deal with an influx of refugees and the threat of extremists spilling over their borders.

Iraq in particular is buckling amid lightening gains by the Sunni extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which also has a stronghold inside Syria. The group has seized large swaths of Iraq and seeks to carve out a purist Islamic enclave across both sides of the Syria-Iraq border.

The instability in Iraq comes as Obama continues to grapple with a crisis in Ukraine, with Russia widely believed to be backing pro-Moscow insurgents in eastern Ukrainian cities. Russia’s threats have stoked anxiety among U.S. allies in the region, who are seeking deeper military assistance from the U.S.

The overseas contingency requests includes a $1 billion program that would increase the U.S. military presence in Central and Eastern Europe, boost training exercises with allies and allow the Pentagon to position equipment in the region. Obama announced the program during a trip to Poland earlier this month.

The total overseas contingency package is about $21 billion less than the administration said it expected to request when Obama submitted his fiscal year 2015 budget to Congress earlier this year. Officials said the decrease is in part of reflection of Obama’s plans to drawdown the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan to about 10,000 forces by the beginning of next year.

Obama is still waiting for the Afghan government to sign a security agreement with the U.S. that would allow those forces to stay.

In Congress, some lawmakers have looked at the overseas account as a source of cash as the Pentagon has been forced to cut its core budget. The House’s version of the sweeping defense policy bill for next year shifts some $600 million from the overseas account to spare the A-10 Warthog, the close air support aircraft that has a strong coalition of Republican and Democratic support on Capitol Hill.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

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Discussion | 19 comments

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  • NemoJune 26, 2014 - 4:45 pm

    Madness! Insanity! One-half a billion dollars to arm a bunch of terrorists trying to topple another terrorist. And you can bet your life, unfortunately, that some of those arms will come back to haunt us.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Jason KnowlesJune 27, 2014 - 1:42 am

    Syria, Iraq, Ukraine...not my monkey, not my circus! No money, no troops, no "advisers".

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Tax PayerJune 27, 2014 - 5:24 am

    A bit too late Barry. Your legacy is going down the drain of the nearest toilet. Don't waste our tax dollars on this!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • 2realJune 27, 2014 - 5:48 am

    Thank u thank u thank u. Every decision he makes solidifies my point that is a nimrod. Worst president of all time

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Salty DogJune 27, 2014 - 5:58 am

    He will just continue to blame Bush for this and all of the sheep that blindly follow him will try and put their spin on this. That is if they even respond and we all know who they are.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksJune 27, 2014 - 7:05 am

    Shut it down. Shut it down now. Bring everybody home, send those that don't belong here home, close and lock the gate.. We can be independent and still powerful. We can sit in on conferences during matters of peace. But we don't have to be referees. It is OUR turn, we are entitled to OUR peace and harmony

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • S KJune 27, 2014 - 7:45 am

    When will the U.S, specifically Barack in this case learn??? We can not, SHOULD NOT help in getting rid of anymore dictators in the Middle East, Every time we have, look what has happened, the Islamists come in trying to take over, wanting to make another State an Islamist, terrorist state. This region NEEDS its' dictators. Assad is now fighting and bombing Isis. Somebody needs to (NOT US). This region of the world is not conducive to Democracy. Never has been never will. I regret having voted for Barack twice, once as a Repug. once NON-DECLARED. I am sure that he is a nice guy. I would love to have a beer & brat with him, but President material>>>>NOT. we needed someone more forceful against the, "Party of NO," more of a Reagan type, the best President in my life time >>IMO

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  • Salty DogJune 27, 2014 - 5:04 pm

    SK if Reagan was the best president in your live time (and i agree he was the best president of my life time also ) How on Gods green earth could you have voted for Obama not once but twice that is something i do not under stand. And look what it got you

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  • S KJune 27, 2014 - 6:03 pm

    I have never just voted for a party, even though I was a Repub for around 40 or so yrs. since I was old enough to vote, but vote for whomever I think would be the best person for the office, country. No way I could vote for Romney and his 1%. And I was all REPUG'd out after GW. What can I say. This time I was wrong, but I still do place a lot of the blame on the PARTY OF NO, for Barack's failures. Much could have been accomplished, IMO. Hope I answered your question :-)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895June 27, 2014 - 6:25 pm

    So you're saying you wish you had voted for McCain/Palin over Obama/Biden but you still would have voted for Obama/Biden over Romney/Ryan?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • S KJune 27, 2014 - 6:29 pm

    Palin was a DEAL BREAKER, one sandwich short of a picnic, but FINE legs that woman has>>LOL LOL :-)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Salty DogJune 27, 2014 - 7:16 pm

    SK. You mean the Democratic Party and Harry Reed the leader of the senate that did not come up with a budget for over 4 years and did not let one budget that the Republican controlled house of repersentives be brought to the senate floor to be voted on and yes the Democrates control the senate.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • SKJune 27, 2014 - 9:04 pm

    No sense arguing politics, which is why I went NON- DECLARED, you & I apparently see things differently. The REPUGS were so bad that they said NO to EVERYTHING, including their own ideas, once Barack warmed up to them. And Mitch McDonald, the racist, IMO SOB, said from day ONE, "We will make him fail." So you and I will have to agree to disagree, Moot point anyway, since he can not run again. But AFAIK, the REPUG party is DEAD TO ME.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Salty DogJune 27, 2014 - 9:27 pm

    SK Fair enough all i have to say is you got what you voted for and i hope you do not make the same mistake the next time.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895June 27, 2014 - 10:19 pm

    What, and cave in to the "make American fail" tactics?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • JagJune 27, 2014 - 9:12 am

    Do you know how much repair we could do here at home with that kind of money.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Public DefenderJune 27, 2014 - 5:14 pm

    He should spend $500 mill on training and arming US citizens so they can resist the continuing invasion of the United States.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • 2realJune 27, 2014 - 5:18 pm

    Salty dog. I agree. Guys a p.o.s.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895June 27, 2014 - 6:22 pm

    The Middle East is like a big chess board where you have to plan ahead and also adjust to the situation as it evolves. What's changed lately is ISIL's incursion into Arab Sunni Iraq. It's not so much about ousting Assad as providing a response to this new-forming al-Qaeda state. Give Obama credit for not acting unilaterally. Will congress say no?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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