US to allow air power to defend Syrian rebels

US to Allow Air Power to Defend Syrian Rebels

President Obama has decided to authorize defense of U.S.-trained Syrian rebels with U.S. air power if they are attacked.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. will be able to defend the group known as Division 30 if they are attacked by both Islamist groups like ISIS, and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Division 30 came under attack from al-Nusra Front, an Islamist group, on Friday. The U.S. led coalition launched airstrikes in response to the attack.

The Pentagon announced the plan to train the rebels last year. As of mid-June, the program had less than 200 fighters in training. That's not close to the U.S. goal of training 3,000 to 5,000 rebels per year for three years.

Photos from the Syria air strike:

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US to allow air power to defend Syrian rebels
IDLIB, SYRIA - AUGUST 03: The wreckage of a plane belonging to the Syrian regime forces is seen after it crashed into a market in the opposition-controlled Eriha district of Idlib, Syria on August 03, 2015. Thirty-five people were killed on Monday and scores of others injured when a Syrian regime warplane crashed into a market in Syrias northwestern Idlib province, according to a local civil defense official. (Photo by Firas Faham/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - AUGUST 03: A Syrian man carries a wounded kid after a plane belonging to the Syrian regime forces crashed into a market in the opposition-controlled Eriha district of Idlib, Syria on August 03, 2015. Thirty-five people were killed on Monday and scores of others injured when a Syrian regime warplane crashed into a market in Syrias northwestern Idlib province, according to a local civil defense official. (Photo by Mohammed Amen Qurabi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - AUGUST 03: A Syrian man who was injured when a plane belonging to the Syrian regime forces crashed into a market, receives treatment in the opposition-controlled Eriha district of Idlib, Syria on August 03, 2015. Thirty-five people were killed on Monday and scores of others injured when a Syrian regime warplane crashed into a market in Syrias northwestern Idlib province, according to a local civil defense official. (Photo by Mohammed Amen Qurabi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - AUGUST 03: Syrian rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a buildings destroyed after a plane belonging to the Syrian regime forces crashed into a market in the opposition-controlled Eriha district of Idlib, Syria on August 03, 2015. Thirty-five people were killed on Monday and scores of others injured when a Syrian regime warplane crashed into a market in Syrias northwestern Idlib province, according to a local civil defense official. (Photo by Firas Faham/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - AUGUST 03: Syrian rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a buildings destroyed after a plane belonging to the Syrian regime forces crashed into a market in the opposition-controlled Eriha district of Idlib, Syria on August 03, 2015. Thirty-five people were killed on Monday and scores of others injured when a Syrian regime warplane crashed into a market in Syrias northwestern Idlib province, according to a local civil defense official. (Photo by Firas Faham/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - AUGUST 03: Syrian rescue workers search for survivors in the rubble of a buildings destroyed after a plane belonging to the Syrian regime forces crashed into a market in the opposition-controlled Eriha district of Idlib, Syria on August 03, 2015. Thirty-five people were killed on Monday and scores of others injured when a Syrian regime warplane crashed into a market in Syrias northwestern Idlib province, according to a local civil defense official. (Photo by Firas Faham/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - AUGUST 03: Syrians walk past destroyed buildings after a plane belonging to the Syrian regime forces crashed into a market in the opposition-controlled Eriha district of Idlib, Syria on August 03, 2015. Thirty-five people were killed on Monday and scores of others injured when a Syrian regime warplane crashed into a market in Syrias northwestern Idlib province, according to a local civil defense official. (Photo by Mohammed Amen Qurabi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - AUGUST 03: Syrians inspect the wreckage of a plane belonging to the Syrian regime forces after it crashed into a market in the opposition-controlled Eriha district of Idlib, Syria on August 03, 2015. Thirty-five people were killed on Monday and scores of others injured when a Syrian regime warplane crashed into a market in Syrias northwestern Idlib province, according to a local civil defense official. (Photo by Mohammed Amen Qurabi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - AUGUST 03: A Syrian man inspects damaged building following the airstrikes of Syrian regime forces on a residential area in Jobar district of Damascus, Syria on August 03, 2015. (Photo by Muhammed Eyad/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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The training and arming plan was originally aimed at ISIS, which was already a hard focus to promote considering the Syrian rebels care most about defeating the Assad regime.

But the U.S. has mostly avoided taking steps to directly combat Assad's forces. Officials told The Wall Street Journal they have no reason to believe Assad's forces would attack the U.S. trained rebels.

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