June 14, 2013
Now that President Barack Obama has decided to authorize lethal aid to Syrian rebels, decisions will have to be made on just what type of weapons -- and how many of them -- to send in, and how to make sure the weapons stay out of the hands of extremists who are battling for control of Syria.
The administration could give the rebels a range of weapons, including small arms, assault rifles, shoulder-fired rocket-propelled grenades and other anti-tank missiles. The opposition forces could operate most of that equipment without significant training.
President Obama's opposition to sending American troops into Syria makes it less likely the U.S. will provide sophisticated arms or anti-aircraft weapons that would require large-scale training.
Administration officials are also worried about high-powered weapons ending up in the hands of terrorist groups. Hezbollah fighters are among those backing Assad's armed forces, and al-Qaida-linked extremists back the rebellion.
One U.S. official says the CIA and special operations trainers are already running some weapons training programs for the rebels and are expected to take charge of teaching the opposition how to use the weapons the U.S. has agreed to supply.