The U.S. Department of Defense has put forward a proposal for arming "moderate" rebel forces fighting the Assad regime in Syria, according to a CNN report based on information from two unnamed "Obama administration officials."
"Both administration officials declined to be identified due to the sensitive nature of the information," the report said. Speaking with reporters Wednesday, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said only that "a number of options" are under consideration.
"We have any number of options under development that could expand our support to the moderate opposition, but no decision has been taken at this point," Dempsey said. The Obama administration has acknowledged providing humanitarian aid, along with logistical and some military assistance, to the rebels in the 2 1/2-year-old civil war that has killed more than 100,000. Beyond that, training and equipping of the insurgents "has fallen under the purview of the CIA and has not directly been acknowledged by the United States government," CNN reported.
Some members of Congress have been calling for months for the Obama administration to take a more active role in aiding and equipping the rebels. Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have been most vocal in calling for direct action, including missile attacks on Syrian airfields and the shooting down of Syrian planes, as well as the establishment of a "safe haven" for the opposition near the Turkey/Syria border.
President Obama asked Congress for authority to launch military strikes against the Syrian government following reports in August of chemical weapons being used against the rebels. Congress has not yet acted on the request, and polls have consistently shown the U.S. public opposed to intervening in the conflict. The administration's push for military action lost much of its steam over the past weekend when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to the inspection and elimination of the government's chemical weapons supply.
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