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Obama seeks $500M to train, equip Syrian rebels


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.

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1000|Char. 1000  Char.
jean.mager June 26 2014 at 5:27 PM

OMG... "NOT ONE THIN DIME" (more). Do America a favor and RESIGN today! You're not competent to hold office.

Flag Reply +99 rate up
8 replies
koea34 June 26 2014 at 5:56 PM

I hope that Congress doesn't give Obama one thin dime. Instead they ought to send Obama, Pelosi and Harry Reid over there to train them , seems like they are all in the same bed.

Flag Reply +99 rate up
10 replies
buddyboygabe June 26 2014 at 5:49 PM

perhaps, this money his asking for, should come out from his golf game allowances, after all, costing tax payers an over $980,000 every time his out there on the course, so far he has played an over 180 rounds, ~$180 millions tax payers dime in last 5.5 years.

Flag Reply +99 rate up
11 replies
Dave June 26 2014 at 5:41 PM

so our country is in dire straights,and this thing wants to send all that money to some other stupid country.yet he goes on about americas deficit.even threatening to cut the ss and ssi checks 25 to 30 %..he is the biggest a-- hole...my god enought with the other damn countries.wev e lost to much now.500 million.do you know butt head what that could do for america.to hell with the so called trainging in some damn country.this was to be done years ago..now this crap..i hope if he is turned down big time..you see people he loves these countries but hates america...hes trying to play big shot..at our expense.obambaaa.i hope your kicked out of office.one way or another..

Flag Reply +90 rate up
14 replies
risingmoo4 June 26 2014 at 5:50 PM

my husband was laid off 2012,has no health insurance had lung cancer.just found a part time job at 63yrs old.had worked starting at 16yrs old.now i would like to take some of that taxes that he had paid to all you dumb ass people to help us out.here in america!

Flag Reply +85 rate up
8 replies
risingmoo4 June 26 2014 at 5:47 PM

no!Omg! we need money here at home!what is wrong with you?

Flag Reply +65 rate up
4 replies
docush9 June 26 2014 at 5:48 PM

duh , !!! i think thats what we did for iraq and what that get us !!! hes gettin dumber by the minute !!!!

Flag Reply +62 rate up
5 replies
joe June 26 2014 at 5:50 PM

Jerky you get no more money to waiste. Lets these idiots kill themselves then we can can just go get the oil and the prices will drop to $1.50 a gallon.

Flag Reply +58 rate up
7 replies
bronbronco27 June 26 2014 at 6:18 PM

He's asking now? I thought his pen and phone were plenty to get whatever he wanted done.

Flag Reply +50 rate up
4 replies
msmith6791 June 26 2014 at 5:49 PM

Could I have one million to rebel against my wife - after all, I am an American citizen and I live here, Shouldn't I be considered 1st before some people in Syria. Actually now that I am thinking about it, weren't we talking about INVADING Syria a year ago? America - what have you become with a president like this?

Flag Reply +48 rate up
5 replies
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