The Wall Street Journal reports: The Obama administration is considering putting the Pentagon in charge of arming and training moderate rebel forces in Syria, a move that could help expand the effort significantly beyond the limited scope of the current Central Intelligence Agency program, U.S. officials said.
These internal discussions come as Congress begins a debate over a resolution to authorize limited strikes against Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons last month.
The move would substantially revamp one of the administration’s most secretive and controversial undertakings in the 2½-year-old civil war. President Barack Obama authorized the CIA program in June after Hezbollah’s large-scale entry into the conflict on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s side and a U.S. determination that Syrian forces had used chemical arms in small amounts in earlier clashes.
The idea of giving the Pentagon a greater role in the effort has gained traction in recent weeks among some in Congress and in the administration who say the CIA’s arming and training program is too small and slow-moving.
Administration officials have privately told lawmakers they don’t want to tip the balance against the Assad regime for fear Islamist groups in the opposition with links to al Qaeda could seize large swaths of the country and Mr. Assad’s weapons. At the same time, the White House says it wants to build up moderate elements in the hope they will one day play a leadership role in a post-Assad Syria. [Continue reading…]