US, EU may start training and equipping Syrian rebels

February 27, 2013

The US will increase aid to the Syrian opposition, the White House has announced. Europe may follow suit by increasing aid to the Free Syrian Army (FSA). The decision is expected after a key conference on Syria in Rome.

“We will continue to provide assistance to the Syrian people, to the Syrian opposition, we will continue to increase our assistance in the effort to bring about a post-Assad Syria,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

“We are constantly reviewing the nature of the assistance we provide to both the Syrian people, in form of humanitarian assistance, and to the Syrian opposition in the form of non-lethal assistance,” he said.

So far the US has no plans to provide the Syrian insurgency with body armor, vehicles or military training, Reuters reported citing sources familiar with the matter.

Washington is however changing its policy on the conflict, and will send “medical supplies and food” directly to the rebels, sources said.

Earlier, the Washington Post reported that the White House is considering sending the rebels body armor and armed vehicles, and also possibly providing military training.

Until now, Western countries’ official support to the forces fighting against Syrian President Bashar Assad was limited to direct contact, logistical assistance and political backing.

Several top figures in the Obama administration, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former CIA chief David Petraeus pushed for closer engagement with the Syrian rebels last year, which would likely include arming them. …

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