Free Syrian Army fighters in Mleha suburb of Damascus 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)
American intelligence and military personnel have for months been providing weapons training to Syrian rebels fighting President Bashar Assad’s regime, The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday.
The newspaper cited US officials and rebel commanders who confirmed that CIA operatives and American special operations units have been training the rebels – primarily from the Free Syrian Army - with anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons since late 2012.
The newspaper reported that the training took place at covert bases in Jordan and Turkey. So far, the Obama administration has been hesitant to sanction large-scale military aid to the rebels for fear that the arms could end up in the hands of radical Islamists currently fighting the Assad regime.
Washington has been urged by lawmakers at home and critics abroad to increase its involvement in the Syrian conflict, which has claimed the lives of tens of thousands in the last two years.
The United States has left about 700 combat-equipped troops in Jordan after a training exercise there, at the request of the Jordanian government, US President Barack Obama said on Friday.
With both countries keeping a wary eye on the civil war in Syria, Obama said in a letter to Congress that 700 of the troops deployed to Jordan as part of a training exercise will remain behind.
The exercise ended on Thursday. They will remain until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed, Obama said.
"This detachment that participated in the exercise and remained in Jordan includes Patriot missile systems, fighter aircraft, and related support, command, control, and communications personnel and systems," Obama said.