Obama requested $500 million from Congress on Thursday to train and equip what the White House is calling “appropriately vetted” members of the Syrian opposition, reflecting increased worry about the spillover of the Syrian conflict into Iraq.
If Congress approves the funding, it would mark the first direct U.S. military participation in the Syrian conflict. The training would most likely take place in neighboring Jordan, where the CIA is currently training Syrian opposition forces, and possibly in Turkey.
“While we continue to believe that there is no military solution to this crisis and that the United States should not put American troops into combat in Syria, this request marks another step toward helping the Syrian people defend themselves against regime attacks,” Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement. She also said the money and training would help Syrians fight extremists “who find safe haven in the chaos.”
The White House is asking for $4 billion to go to the Pentagon and $1 billion to the State Department for other counter-terrorism operations, including training and equipping partner countries.
Some of the money, administration officials said, would cover increased costs of Special Operations Forces that have deployed around the world, while $1.5 billion would go toward counter-terrorism efforts in the neighborhood around Syria: Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.
Obama also wants to set aside $500 million to “address unforeseen contingencies” in counter-terrorism, namely Iraq, an administration official said.
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