U.S. Says Will Increase Aid, Train Rebels in 'Effort to Bring About a post-Assad Syria'

New York Times reports that combat training will be offered to the Syrian opposition; White House spokesman says humanitarian assistance will be provided to the Syrian people.

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The United States is planning to offer Syrian rebels combat training, the New York times reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, an offer of training assistance is expected to come from Secretary of State John Kerry when he meets with Syrian opposition leaders in Rome on Thursday. Citing senior U.S. administration officials, the New York Times said the United States would propose to train rebel fighters in a third country in the region.

Also on Wednesday, a White House spokesman announced the United States would increase aid to the Syrian people and nonmilitary aid to the Syrian opposition, in an effort to speed a political transition in the country.

"We are constantly reviewing the nature of the assistance we provide to both the Syrian people, in form of humanitarian assistance, and to the Syrian opposition in the form of non-lethal assistance," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at a briefing.

According to the New York Times, "Under a broad definition of 'nonlethal,' assistance to the opposition could include items like vehicles, communications equipment and night vision gear. The Obama administration has said it will not — at least for now — provide arms to the opposition."

Washington has sided with the Syrian opposition in seeking the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad from power. "We will continue to provide assistance to the Syrian people, to the Syrian opposition, we will continue to increase our assistance in the effort to bring about a post-Assad Syria," Carney said.

The Washington Post has reported that the White House was considering a shift in policy toward the nearly two-year-long conflict in Syria and may send the rebels body armor and armed vehicles, and possibly also provide military training.

According to the report, U.S. officials still oppose providing arms.

Free Syrian Army fighters, taking their positions as they observe the Syrian army forces base of Wadi al-Deif in Idlib province, Syria, Tuesday Feb. 26, 2013.Credit: AP
A Syrian man displays items for sale outside tents at the Bab Al-Salam refugee camp in Azaz, near the Syrian-Turkish border. February 27, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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