Obama Wants $500 Million to Train and Equip Syrian Opposition

The sum comes out of the president’s new Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund.

National Journal
Kaveh Waddell
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Kaveh Waddell
June 26, 2014, 12:05 p.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama has asked Con­gress for $500 mil­lion to train and equip mod­er­ate ele­ments of the Syr­i­an op­pos­i­tion.

The sum is part of a $1.5 bil­lion Re­gion­al Sta­bil­iz­a­tion Ini­ti­at­ive that would also es­tab­lish part­ner­ships with Syr­ia’s neigh­bors — Jordan, Le­ban­on, Tur­key, and Ir­aq — to off­set the threat of ex­trem­ism that has already over­flowed in­to Ir­aq. In ad­di­tion, it would help these coun­tries deal with the hun­dreds of thou­sands of refugees who have been dis­placed by the fight­ing in Syr­ia.

This ini­ti­at­ive draws from the Coun­terter­ror­ism Part­ner­ships Fund, a $5 bil­lion pro­gram the pres­id­ent an­nounced at West Point in May.

“These funds would help de­fend the Syr­i­an people, sta­bil­ize areas un­der op­pos­i­tion con­trol, fa­cil­it­ate the pro­vi­sion of es­sen­tial ser­vices, counter ter­ror­ist threats, and pro­mote con­di­tions for a ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment,” said Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil spokes­wo­man Caitlin Hay­den in a state­ment on Thursday.

The U.S. already con­ducts secret CIA-run pro­grams to train the mod­er­ate op­pos­i­tion in Syr­ia, but this new ini­ti­at­ive would broaden its in­volve­ment in the coun­try.

This an­nounce­ment comes days after the pres­id­ent pledged to send up to 300 mil­it­ary ad­visers to Ir­aq to train and co­ordin­ate with Ir­aqi gov­ern­ment forces in their battle with IS­IS, a Sunni mil­it­ant group. The Syr­i­an op­pos­i­tion, like in­ef­fect­ive gov­ern­ment forces in Ir­aq, will likely prove dif­fi­cult part­ners in the fight against ex­trem­ism in the re­gion. But as the ap­pet­ite for mil­it­ary in­ter­ven­tion in the U.S. hits his­tor­ic lows, the pres­id­ent turns to stra­tegic part­ner­ships such as these in hopes that a loc­ally led coun­ter­of­fens­ive would be viewed as more le­git­im­ate and would be more likely to bring about last­ing sta­bil­ity.

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