Obama Calls for $5 Billion Counter-terrorism Fund

Support for Syrian rebels a central part of U.S. president's new initiative, which he announced in a major foreign policy speech at West Point.

U.S. President Barack Obama delivering foreign policy speech at West Point.
U.S. President Barack Obama delivering foreign policy speech at West Point. Reuters

In a major foreign policy address on Wednesday, President Barack Obama said he will work with Congress to ramp up U.S. support for Syrian opposition groups that are the best alternative to President Bashar Assad.

In a speech at the West Point Academy, Obama called on Congress to support a $5 billion counterterrorism fund that would help support Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. All those countries have Syrian refugees and they're confronting terrorists working across Syria's borders.

Obama also used his remarks to reaffirm his decision not to put American troops in the middle of the Syrian civil war.

"We will step up our efforts to support Syria's neighbors - Jordan and Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq - as they host refugees, and confront terrorists working across Syrian borders," Obama also said in his prepared remarks speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

The conflict, now in its fourth year has seen more than 162,000 people killed. One-third of Syria's prewar population of 23 million has been displaced.

He said he rejected the argument that military force is the only way to show American leadership, but that he also opposed isolationism.

"The United States is the one indispensable nation," Obama said in a major He dismissed critics "who suggest that America is in decline or has seen its global leadership slip away" because he has not deployed the military for every emerging conflict, accusing them of "misreading history."

The United States must lead on the world stage, but also show restraint before rushing into military operations overseas.

The U.S. is emerging from a long period of war, he said, but added that isolationism isn't an option in the 21st century.

He says the U.S. will use force when necessary, but is stronger when it doesn't act alone.

The speech comes a day after Obama offered a blueprint for ending the U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan.