FILE – This Aug. 21, 2013 file photo shows a Syrian military soldier holding his AK-47 with a sticker of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Arabic that reads, “Syria is fine,” as he stands guard at a check point in Damascus, Syria. President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $500 million to train and arm vetted members of the Syrian opposition, as the U.S. grapples for a way to stem a civil war that has also fueled the al-Qaida inspired insurgency in neighboring Iraq. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) — With the conflicts in Syria and Iraq becoming increasingly intertwined against the same Sunni extremist group, President Barack Obama moved on Thursday to ratchet up U.S. efforts to strengthen more moderate Syrian rebels.
Obama’s request to Congress for $500 million in training and arms to the opposition in effect opens a second front in the fight against militants spilling over Syria’s border and threatening to overwhelm neighboring Iraq. The train-and-equip mission would be overseen by the Pentagon and would mark a significant expansion of previous covert effort to arm the more moderate rebels who are fighting both the extremists and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Obama has long been reluctant to arm the opposition, in part because of concerns that weapons may fall into extremist hands. But administration officials say the U.S. has grown increasingly confident in recent months about its ability to distinguish the moderate rebels from the more extremist elements that include the Login to read more