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US House approves training and arming of ‘moderate’ militants in Syria

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The US House of Representatives has approved President Barack Obama’s strategy to train and arm “moderate” militants in Syria to tackle the threat of the ISIL terrorist organization.

Despite the concerns, the Republican-controlled House voted 273 to 156 in favor of the so-called train-and-equip plan on Wednesday.

The yes votes included 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats, while 85 Democrats and 71 Republicans voted against the legislation. The Senate is expected take up the measure on Thursday.

The Pentagon plans to train and arm 5,000 militants in Syria as part of the Obama administration’s long-term strategy to confront ISIL.

Obama has requested Congress to grant him political cover to launch a military assault in Syria against ISIL, despite the fact that the White House believes he has the constitutional authority to start an air campaign in Syria, as he has done in Iraq.

“It’s the best choice of worse options,” said Rep. Jim Moran, a Democrat. “It’s because there are no better alternatives and I don’t think it’s responsible to do nothing.”

Earlier in the day, Obama told an audience of American troops that he will not start another ground war in Iraq, but repeated his vow to destroy ISIL terrorists.

“The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission,” he said. “I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq.”

The United States has deployed some 1,600 troops to Iraq to bolster security for American diplomats and provide advice to Iraqi government forces fighting the militants.

The US calls them military advisors, but according to American defense officials, the troops are comprised of Marines and special operations forces from the US Central Command region.

The ISIL terrorists, who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, control large parts of Syria’s northern territory. ISIL sent its fighters into Iraq in June, quickly seizing large swaths of land straddling the border between the two countries.

According to the White House, the terrorist group recently beheaded American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in Syria. Foley was reportedly killed last month, and Sotloff was executed early this month.

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