Obama seeks $500M to train, equip Syrian rebels

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
35 PHOTOS
Israel Bombs Syria
See Gallery
Obama seeks $500M to train, equip Syrian rebels
ALEPPO, SYRIA - JUNE 26: Syrians inspect the destroyed buildings following a Syrian government air strike in Aleppo, Syria, on June 26, 2014. At least 17 people including women and children were killed during an air strike by the Syrian army on opposition-held areas in Aleppo Thursday, opposition activists said. (Photo by Salih Mahmud Leyla/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi mourners carry the coffin of a member of the Shiite militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq (The League of the Righteous) who was reportedly killed in Syria, during his funeral, on June 26, 2014, in the central shrine city of Najaf. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR HAMDANI (Photo credit should read HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEPPO, SYRIA - JUNE 26: A Syrian boy works at the site of a Syrian government air strike in Aleppo, Syria, on June 26, 2014. At least 17 people including women and children were killed during an air strike by the Syrian army on opposition-held areas in Aleppo Thursday, opposition activists said. (Photo by Salih Mahmud Leyla/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Rebel fighters aid injured civilians following reported shelling by regime forces on Jobar, on the outskirt of Damascus on June 26, 2014. The Syrian air force carried out air strikes targeting militants on the Syrian side of the Iraq-Syria border this week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told the BBC. AFP PHOTO / LENS OF A YOUNG DIMASHQI (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers help themselves with food while positioned near the Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on June 22, 2014. The teenage son of an Israeli defence ministry contractor was killed today on the Golan, in the most serious incident on the plateau since the Syrian war erupted in 2011. Israel's defence ministry and the army said the 15-year-old was killed when a blast hit the car he was travelling in with his father and another contractor, both of whom were wounded. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers are seen near a Merkava tank near the Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on June 22, 2014. The teenage son of an Israeli defence ministry contractor was killed today on the Golan, in the most serious incident on the plateau since the Syrian war erupted in 2011. Israel's defence ministry and the army said the 15-year-old was killed when a blast hit the car he was travelling in with his father and another contractor, both of whom were wounded. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers of a Merkava tank unit are seen in their position near the Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on June 22, 2014. The teenage son of an Israeli defence ministry contractor was killed today on the Golan, in the most serious incident on the plateau since the Syrian war erupted in 2011. Israel's defence ministry and the army said the 15-year-old was killed when a blast hit the car he was travelling in with his father and another contractor, both of whom were wounded. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers are seen on their Merkava tank positioned near the Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on June 22, 2014. The teenage son of an Israeli defence ministry contractor was killed today on the Golan, in the most serious incident on the plateau since the Syrian war erupted in 2011. Israel's defence ministry and the army said the 15-year-old was killed when a blast hit the car he was travelling in with his father and another contractor, both of whom were wounded. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers of a Merkava tank unit are seen in their position near the Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on June 22, 2014. The teenage son of an Israeli defence ministry contractor was killed today on the Golan, in the most serious incident on the plateau since the Syrian war erupted in 2011. Israel's defence ministry and the army said the 15-year-old was killed when a blast hit the car he was travelling in with his father and another contractor, both of whom were wounded. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers of a Merkava tank unit are seen in their position near the Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on June 22, 2014. The teenage son of an Israeli defence ministry contractor was killed today on the Golan, in the most serious incident on the plateau since the Syrian war erupted in 2011. Israel's defence ministry and the army said the 15-year-old was killed when a blast hit the car he was travelling in with his father and another contractor, both of whom were wounded. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
GOLAN HEIGHTS, UNSPECIFIED - JUNE 22: (ISRAEL OUT) Israeli soldiers deployed on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra on June 22, 2014 Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. An Israeli teen was killed on June, 22, and three men were wounded, one seriously, in an attack near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
GOLAN HEIGHTS, UNSPECIFIED - JUNE 22: (ISRAEL OUT) Israeli soldiers deployed on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra on June 22, 2014 Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. An Israeli teen was killed on June, 22, and three men were wounded, one seriously, in an attack near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
GOLAN HEIGHTS - JUNE 22: (ISRAEL OUT) Israeli soldiers deploy on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra on June 22, 2014 Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. An Israeli teen was killed on June, 22, and three men were wounded, one seriously, in an attack near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
GOLAN HEIGHTS - JUNE 22: (ISRAEL OUT) Israeli soldiers stand on a Merkava tank on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra on June 22, 2014 Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. An Israeli teen was killed on June, 22, and three men were wounded, one seriously, in an attack near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
GOLAN HEIGHTS - JUNE 22: (ISRAEL OUT) An Israeli soldier stands near a shell next to a Merkava tank on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra on June 22, 2014 Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. An Israeli teen was killed on June, 22, and three men were wounded, one seriously, in an attack near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
GOLAN HEIGHTS - JUNE 22: (ISRAEL OUT) An Israeli soldier carries shells to a Merkava tank on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra on June 22, 2014 Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. An Israeli teen was killed on June, 22, and three men were wounded, one seriously, in an attack near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
GOLAN HEIGHTS - JUNE 22: (ISRAEL OUT) An Israeli soldier carries a shell on a Merkava tank on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra on June 22, 2014 Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. An Israeli teen was killed on June, 22, and three men were wounded, one seriously, in an attack near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
GOLAN HEIGHTS - JUNE 22: (ISRAEL OUT) Israeli soldiers are briefed next to a Merkava on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra on June 22, 2014 Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. An Israeli teen was killed on June, 22, and three men were wounded, one seriously, in an attack near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
GOLAN HEIGHTS - JUNE 22: (ISRAEL OUT) An Israeli soldier carries a shell on a Merkava tank on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra on June 22, 2014 Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. An Israeli teen was killed on June, 22, and three men were wounded, one seriously, in an attack near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
GOLAN HEIGHTS - JUNE 22: (ISRAEL OUT) Israeli soldiers stand next to a Merkava tank on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra on June 22, 2014 Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. An Israeli teen was killed on June, 22, and three men were wounded, one seriously, in an attack near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
GOLAN HEIGHTS - JUNE 22: (ISRAEL OUT) An Israeli soldier carries a shell to a Merkava tank on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra on June 22, 2014 Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. An Israeli teen was killed on June, 22, and three men were wounded, one seriously, in an attack near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
GOLAN HEIGHTS - JUNE 22: (ISRAEL OUT) An Israeli soldier stands on Armoured personnel carrier on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra on June 22, 2014 Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. An Israeli teen was killed on June, 22, and three men were wounded, one seriously, in an attack near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
GOLAN HEIGHTS - JUNE 22: (ISRAEL OUT) Israeli soldiers stand on a Merkava tank on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra on June 22, 2014 Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. An Israeli teen was killed on June, 22, and three men were wounded, one seriously, in an attack near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
GOLAN HEIGHTS - JUNE 22: (ISRAEL OUT) Israeli soldiers look at maps on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra on June 22, 2014 Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. An Israeli teen was killed on June, 22, and three men were wounded, one seriously, in an attack near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
GOLAN HEIGHTS - JUNE 22: (ISRAEL OUT) An Israeli soldier carries shells to a Merkava tank on the Israeli-Syrian border near Quneitra on June 22, 2014 Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. An Israeli teen was killed on June, 22, and three men were wounded, one seriously, in an attack near the border fence with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers look at maps next to their Merkava tank positioned near the Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on June 22, 2014, after the son of an Israeli defence ministry contractor was killed when a blast hit the car he was travelling in with his father and another contractor. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers stand next to their Merkava tanks positioned near the Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on June 22, 2014, after the son of an Israeli defence ministry contractor was killed when a blast hit the car he was travelling in with his father and another contractor. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
An Israeli soldier loads shells into his Merkava tank positioned near the Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on June 22, 2014, after the son of an Israeli defence ministry contractor was killed when a blast hit the car he was travelling in with his father and another contractor. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
An Israeli soldier prepares to load shells into his Merkava tank positioned near the Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on June 22, 2014, after the son of an Israeli defence ministry contractor was killed when a blast hit the car he was travelling in with his father and another contractor. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
An Israeli soldier prepares to load shells into his Merkava tank positioned near the Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on June 22, 2014, after the son of an Israeli defence ministry contractor was killed when a blast hit the car he was travelling in with his father and another contractor. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers climb on their Merkava tank positioned near the Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on June 22, 2014, after the son of an Israeli defence ministry contractor was killed when a blast hit the car he was travelling in with his father and another contractor. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL - MAY 28: Palestinians are taken into custody at the protest against closing the Damascus and Herod's Gate during the rally of Jerusalem Day in Jerusalem, Israel, on May 28, 2014. (Photo by Salih Zeki Fazlioglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Israeli soldiers carry shells to their tank following the first death on the Israeli side of the Golan since the Syrian civil war erupted more than three years ago, near the Israeli village of Alonei Habashan, in the area of Tel Hazeka, close to the Quneitra border crossing in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, Sunday, June 22, 2014. A civilian vehicle in the Golan Heights was targeted by forces in neighboring Syria on Sunday in an attack that killed a 15-year-old boy and prompted Israeli tanks to retaliate by firing on Syrian government targets, the Israeli military said. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Wednesday, June 18, 2014 photo, Palestinian refugee Mahmoud Almansi, 79, poses for a picture in the West Bank refugee camp of Al-Amari, where he has lived since the age of 13. A lifetime has passed since hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced out their homes in the Mideast war over Israel's 1948 creation. Today, those who were uprooted and their descendants number more than 5 million people, scattered across the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

By JULIE PACE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama asked Congress Thursday for $500 million to train and arm vetted members of the Syrian opposition, as the U.S. struggles 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 deepen the Obama administration's involvement in the more than four-year conflict between rebels and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad. If approved by Congress, the program would supplement a covert train-and-assistance program run by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The Syria program is part of a broader $65.8 billion overseas operations request that the administration sent to Capitol Hill Thursday. The package includes $1 billion to help stabilize nations bordering Syria that are struggling with the effects of the civil war. It also formalizes a request for a previously announced $1 billion to strengthen the U.S. military presence in Central and Eastern Europe amid Russia's threatening moves in Ukraine.

The requests come as Obama faces fresh criticism of his restrained policies in Syria, which some White House opponents contend allowed the Sunni insurgency pressing through Iraq to gain strength. U.S. officials increasingly see the instability in Syria and Iraq as a single challenge, with the border between the two countries increasingly blurred.

Obama hinted earlier this year that he was seeking ways to boost assistance to moderate Syrian rebels who are struggling to make gains in their clashes with Assad's forces.

"In helping those who fight for the right of all Syrians to choose their own future, we also push back against the growing number of extremists who find safe haven in the chaos," Obama told graduating cadets during a May 28 commencement address at West Point.

Officials said the administration would coordinate with Congress and regional players on the specific types of training and assistance the U.S. would provide the opposition. One potential option would be to base U.S. personnel in Jordan and conduct the training exercise there.

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.

In addition to the covert train-and-equip mission, the U.S. has also provided nearly $287 million in nonlethal assistance to the moderate opposition.

The military program would be supplemented by $1 billion in assistance to Syria's neighbors - Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq - to help them deal with an influx of refugees and the threat of extremists spilling over their borders.

Iraq in particular is buckling amid lightening gains by the Sunni extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which also has a stronghold inside Syria. The group has seized large swaths of Iraq and seeks to carve out a purist Islamic enclave across both sides of the Syria-Iraq border.

The instability in Iraq comes as Obama continues to grapple with a crisis in Ukraine, with Russia widely believed to be backing pro-Moscow insurgents in eastern Ukrainian cities. Russia's threats have stoked anxiety among U.S. allies in the region, who are seeking deeper military assistance from the U.S.

The overseas contingency requests includes a $1 billion program that would increase the U.S. military presence in Central and Eastern Europe, boost training exercises with allies and allow the Pentagon to position equipment in the region. Obama announced the program during a trip to Poland earlier this month.

The total overseas contingency package is about $21 billion less than the administration said it expected to request when Obama submitted his fiscal year 2015 budget to Congress earlier this year. Officials said the decrease is in part of reflection of Obama's plans to drawdown the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan to about 10,000 forces by the beginning of next year.

Obama is still waiting for the Afghan government to sign a security agreement with the U.S. that would allow those forces to stay.

In Congress, some lawmakers have looked at the overseas account as a source of cash as the Pentagon has been forced to cut its core budget. The House's version of the sweeping defense policy bill for next year shifts some $600 million from the overseas account to spare the A-10 Warthog, the close air support aircraft that has a strong coalition of Republican and Democratic support on Capitol Hill.

More AOL Content:
Supreme Court deals crippling blow to Obama
Nancy Grace stuns dad into silence with breaking news
Bride-to-be dies on way to her bachelorette party
Read Full Story

People are Reading