President Obama asked Congress for $500 million on Thursday, to train and arm “appropriately vetted” members of the Syrian opposition.
Obama’s request comes as the U.S. grapples with a way to contain the civil war that has now fueled the al-Qaeda-inspired insurgency threatening the American-backed government in neighboring Iraq.
This training program is the most significant move by the U.S. in Syria’s three-year-long civil war that has claimed more than 160,000 lives.
The request forms part of the military bill policy authorizing the Pentagon to “train and equip vetted elements of the Syrian armed opposition to 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,” the New York Times reported.
Last month, Obama announced plans for a $5 billion counterterrorism fund for training programs in vulnerable Middle Eastern countries.
The administration said that the training program is a step to help the Syrian people defend themselves against regime attacks as well as threats from the growing extremist forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Caitlin Hayden, the national security spokeswoman, said in a statement:
“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, push back against the growing number of extremists like ISIL who find safe haven in the chaos, and take their future into their own hands.”
On June 16, Obama said he would be sending up to 300 military advisers to assist the Iraqi regime against the ISIS.