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A Free Syrian Army fighter on one of the frontlines of the Wadi Al-Dayf camp in the countryside of Idlib, Syria, Sept. 14, 2014.
Khalil Ashawi—Reuters

Updated at 7:45 p.m. on September 15

President Barack Obama may soon get the approval he needs from Congress to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels to fight Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria.

The House Armed Services Committee has drafted an amendment to grant authorization to the President to arm and train Syrian rebels opposed to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

There are some strings attached, including requiring that the Pentagon report to Congress 15 days before it plans to train and equip the rebels, and provide subsequent updates to relevant committees every 90 days.

The language will be included as an amendment to a government funding bill that needs to pass Congress by the end of the month to avert a partial government shut down. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a key member of the House GOP whip team, said the amendment will pass this week.

Speaker of the House John Boehner said last week that the Free Syrian Army—perceived to be a moderate opponent of Assad’s regime—has “by and large been very well vetted by our intelligence officials” and are “about to get run over.” He has also said that the President needs a broader strategy than airstrikes alone.

The amendment states that it does not give the Administration authority to send armed forces into the conflict. Some members of Congress believe the Administration will have to submit a separate “Authorization to Use Military Force” measure to expand U.S. military involvement in Syria for an extended period of time. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) derided separating the measure training and equipping the rebels from an AUMF. “A bold way forward,” he joked to a group of reporters at the Capitol Monday night. “The Congress rises to the occasion yet again.”

“I think it’s a complete cop out; I’m ready to vote tomorrow,” added Graham, who believes Obama has the authority to act unilaterally against ISIS. “The worst of all worlds is believing that it’s required but you’re not going to do it until after the election. That’s pretty poor.”

Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday that the new effort to train and equip the rebels would require “specific congressional authorization,” but the Administration believes it has the authority to act militarily against ISIS without an AUMF.


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