Washington 'cannot protect the Syrian fighters it is training'

Washington 'cannot protect the Syrian fighters it is training'
The US will begin training its first group of Syrian opposition fighters in March, but it lacks the legal jurisdiction to protect them from attacks by Assad.
2 min read
12 March, 2015
US soldiers will soon begin training Syrian opposition forces in Turkey [Getty]
US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said on Wednesday that Washington does not have the clear-cut legal authority to protect Syrian rebels it trains from attack by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Carter said a final decision had not been made. The situation is likely to continue, even if Congress approves new war powers.

Existing war powers do not give a clear legal pathway for US military action against Assad's forces, he said.

     The programme will begin on 15 March and train 300 Syria opposition soldiers in its first stage.

The defence secretary was testifying at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Reuters reported.

Anadolu reported, meanwhile, that US Central Command Chief General Lloyd Austin visited military facilities in Turkey's central Kirsehir province on Wednesday.

Syrian opposition forces are being trained there under the US joint train-and-equip programme.

The Turkish military said Chief of General Staff Necdet Ozel had met Austin and his delegation. The US general also held talks with special forces commanders in Ankara before heading to Kirsehir province.

On 19 February, Turkey and the US signed the train-and-equip deal in Ankara to prepare 1,500 to 2,000 Syrian opposition fighters. The programme will begin on 15 March and it will train 300 Syria opposition soldiers in its first stage.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Syrian opposition fighters trained will fight Assad's regime, the Islamic State group and other "terrorist organisations" in Syria.

This is an edited translation
from our Arabic edition.