President Obama promised back in May to help the Syrian opposition in its fight against Bashar al-Assad, and today he made that promise a lot more tangible. The White House asked Congress for $500 million to train and equip the opposition forces, reports USA Today. With the conflict spilling over into Iraq, the White House had been under increasing pressure from critics such as John McCain to take action, notes Reuters. Recipients will be"appropriately vetted" to make sure the money doesn't go to terrorists, the White House says. The money would be the biggest step taken so far by the US in the Syrian conflict, notes the New York Times, and it would be part of a broader $5 billion counterterrorism initiative for the Middle East.
“While we continue to believe that there is no military solution to this crisis and that the United States should not put American troops into combat in Syria, this request marks another step toward helping the Syrian people defend themselves against regime attacks, push back against the growing number of extremists like ISIL who find safe haven in the chaos, and take their future into their own hands," says a national security spokesperson. ISIL, also seen as ISIS, refers to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the group now overrunning Iraq.