WASHINGTON - 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.
The military training program would boost the Obama administration's involvement in the conflict between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and opposition forces. The program would supplement a covert train-and-assistance program run by U.S. intelligence agencies.
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.