The State Department announced on Thursday that the United States is prepared to send $60 million in additional non-lethal aid and military training to Syrian rebels. The training mission, the New York Times notes, “represents the deepest American involvement yet in the Syrian conflict, though the size and scope of the mission is not clear, nor is its host country.” Moreover, the Times reports, while the Obama administration will not send weapons, the new policy represents a shift in U.S. policy:
The main significance of the policy shift, officials said, is not just the type of equipment that would be sent to the opposition, but who the recipients would be.
Until now, none of the aid the United States has supplied has been sent to the Free Syrian Army fighters, who are doing battle with Mr. Assad. Rather, the distribution of assistance has been limited to local councils and unarmed groups. But this would change if the administration expanded its assistance.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that, according to Syrian rebels and U.S. officials, “[e]xtremists intent on establishing an Islamist state in Syria have gained power within the rebel insurgency, while moderates have lost clout since moves by Washington late last year aimed at the opposite result.”
The U.N.’s top refugee official reported on Wednesday that the number of registered Syrian refugees in the region could surpass 1 million by next month. “We are facing a moment of truth in Syria,” said António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees. “The humanitarian situation is dramatic beyond description. The refugee crisis is accelerating at a staggering pace.”
In other news:
The Financial Times reports: An internal EU report recommends curbing trade, investment and tourism in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, in a sign of further hardening of diplomatic attitudes against Israel’s policy in occupied Palestinian territory.
The New York Times reports: Even as the Pentagon lifts the ban on women in combat roles, returning servicewomen are facing a battlefield of a different kind: they are now the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, an often-invisible group bouncing between sofa and air mattress, overnighting in public storage lockers, living in cars and learning to park inconspicuously on the outskirts of shopping centers to avoid the violence of the streets.
Reuters reports: The Senate intelligence committee on Wednesday postponed until next week a vote on the confirmation of White House aide John Brennan to be CIA director, dashing hopes of Democratic leaders who had hoped to hold a vote on Thursday. The committee’s Republican vice chairman, Senator Saxby Chambliss, said the panel expects to hold the vote on Tuesday.