President Barack Obama speaks at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 26, 2014.
President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $500 million to train and arm certain groups of Syrian rebels, to help them in the bloody civil war that has now spilled into Iraq.
The $500 million request is part of a broader $65.8 billion overseas operations request that Obama sent to Congress on Thursday. The program is designed to supplement a covert train-and-assistance program run by American intelligence agencies.
The fiscal package would also fund several Pentagon and State Department programs as well as contribute $1 billion to nations around Syria to help them deal with the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled the war-torn country.
"These funds would help defend the Syrian people, stabilize areas under opposition control, facilitate the provision of essential services, counter terrorist threats, and promote conditions for a negotiated settlement," White House National Security Council Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.
The specific types of training and assistance that the U.S. will provide to the Syrian opposition will be determined in consultation with Congress and regional players, officials said. One option will be to base U.S. personnel in Jordan and conduct training exercise there.
"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,""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 said in a speech at West Point last month.
A bill authorizing the Defense Department to provide "equipment, supplies, training and defense services" to selected, vetted groups of Syrian rebels has already been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the full Senate is expected to vote on the bill before its August recess.
This escalation in the U.S. involvement in Syria comes almost four years into a civil war that has killed 150,000 people and forced one million to flee.
The violence in Syria has also spilled over into neighboring Iraq, where The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a radical Sunni group that began in Syria, is now advancing toward Baghdad.
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Additional reporting by the Associated Press
Tags: Barack Obama