U.S. closer to expanding training for Syrian rebels

Story highlights

  • Plan still must be approved by President Barack Obama
  • It would go along with a CIA program approved a year ago to train and equip rebels
  • Syrian opposition adviser says the al-Assad regime is an "enabler of extremism"

The Obama administration is moving closer to signing off on a plan to expand training for moderate Syrian rebels, U.S. officials said.

Those groups are battling forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and extremist groups linked to al Qaeda.

The plan still must be approved by President Barack Obama.

It would be led by the military and complement a modest CIA program for training and equipping rebels that was authorized by the White House a year ago.

What to know about Syria

"There is growing recognition that the Assad regime is an enabler of extremism," said Oubai Shahbandar, an adviser to the Syrian Opposition Council.

He said the training would go to help the Free Syrian Army fight both the regime's forces and militias and al Qaeda-linked extremists.

    "The decision to expand support to opposition forces to include an expanded American training program for the moderate Free Syrian Army reflects positively on the growing strategic cooperation between the U.S. and the Syrian Opposition," Shahbander said.

    He added that the recent meetings between senior administration officials, Ahmad al-Jarba, the president of the opposition council, and Abdel Ilah al-Bashir, the new chief of the rebel Free Syrian Army, are "bearing fruit."