Syrian rebels have been receiving secret training from CIA operatives and U.S. special operations troops since November, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The Obama administration announced earlier this month that the United States would begin supplying the rebels with small arms. Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime has gained ground in recent months after his defeat had looked inevitable a year ago.
After Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., secretly entered Syria in late May and met with opposition leaders he called on President Barack Obama to aid the rebels with small arms, training and a no-fly zone.
The issue has divided Washington, with some in both parties arguing for aid to the rebels, while others say the opposition forces have been infiltrated by terrorist groups. Some also fear the rebels would install extreme Islamist law while having obtained possession of American weapons.
The secret training took place in Jordan and Turkey. The Times said it was unable to determine how many rebels had been trained at the bases, but a rebel commander told the newspaper that 20 to 45 at a time were trained in Jordan.
The courses last two weeks and include training with Russian-designed 14.5-millimeter antitank rifles, anti-tank missiles and 23-millimeter antiaircraft weapons, a rebel commander in Syria told The Times.
"Those from the CIA, we would sit and talk with them during breaks from training, and afterward they would try to get information on the situation" in Syria, the commander told The Times.
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