“Western powers pledged aid for Syrian rebels on Thursday but stopped short of offering them weapons, disappointing opponents of President Bashar al-Assad clamoring for more arms.
More than 70,000 Syrians have been killed in a fierce conflict that began with peaceful anti-Assad protests nearly two years ago.
Washington has given $385 million in humanitarian aid for Syria but U.S. President Barack Obama has so far refused to give arms, arguing it is difficult to prevent them from falling into the hands of militants who could use them on Western targets.
The United States said it would for the first time give non-lethal aid to the rebels and would more than double its support to Syria’s civilian opposition. …
The help will include medical supplies, food for rebel fighters and $60 million to help the civil opposition provide basic services like security, education and sanitation.
“The United States is … helping to train rebels at a base in the region and for the first time offering armed groups nonlethal assistance and equipment that could help their military campaign.
The training mission, already under way, represents the deepest American involvement yet in the Syrian conflict, though the size and scope of the mission is not clear, nor is its host country. The offer of nonlethal assistance is expected to come from Secretary of State John Kerry at a meeting on Thursday in Rome with opposition leaders.
Under a broad definition of “nonlethal,” assistance to the opposition could include items like vehicles, communications equipment and night vision gear. The Obama administration has said it will not — at least for now — provide arms to the opposition.