US Secretly Training Commandos in Africa
And on the verge of doing the same in Syria
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 27, 2014 1:30 PM CDT
In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian government soldiers stand guard on the roof of Aleppo prison in Aleppo, Syria, May 22, 2014.   (AP Photo/SANA)

(Newser) – The US military has been secretly training counterterrorism commandos in a handful of African countries, the New York Times reveals today, in the hopes of creating elite, homegrown foes for groups like al-Qaeda and Boko Haram. The Pentagon is spending almost $70 million on the plan, drawing on classified funds, and tapping trainers from the Green Berets and Delta Force. It's focusing on Niger, Mauritania, Mali, and Libya—though the Mali effort hasn't started, and the Libya one was suspended in August after militants raided a training base.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that President Obama is close to authorizing a plan to train rebels in Syria, dramatically stepping up US involvement in the conflict. The military would run the program, expanding on a more modest CIA effort begun last year. Obama will reference the plan in his remarks at West Point tomorrow, but isn't expected to provide details.