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But in June, the White House reversed course and said it would expand support for moderate rebels to include providing weapons. Rebel leaders have said they have yet to see any of the arms, drawing criticism from lawmakers who want to see the United States assume a larger role in Syria.
"I just don't agree that a majority are al Qaeda and the bad guys," Kerry said in Saucony Courageous
Syrian rebel forces fight in August.(Photo: AP)
testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "That's not true."
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday the is watching as he pressed the administration case for military action in Syria. (Sept. 4).
Syrian rebels have not been hijacked
WASHINGTON Extremist groups make up between 15% and 25% of the rebels fighting Syrian leader Bashar Assad, but moderate forces are growing stronger as a result of support from regional allies, Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress on Wednesday.
"I am still totally dismayed at the lack of support we are giving to the vetted moderate opposition," said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
But increasingly the White House's broader efforts to support and arm moderate Syrian rebels, which is not part of the resolution, is coming under scrutiny as Kerry and other administration officials push for passage of a resolution.
Supporters of the plan argued it needed to be executed quickly while the rebels had momentum and before extremists could gain influence, the former defense official said.
Kerry's comments come as the administration embarks on an effort to support and arm rebel groups. His testimony was part of President Obama's lobbying effort to get a congressional resolution for a limited strike to deter Assad from using Reebok One Guide chemical weapons.
Last year, the White House rejected a plan that was backed by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and then secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
Since then, the war has become more of a standoff, as Assad's military has blunted rebel advances in parts of the country and fighting has grown more sectarian, complicating efforts to support rebels.
"It needed to be done and it needed to be done fast or the terrorists were going to take advantage of the situation," said a Reebok Blue And Red
former defense official involved in the discussions but who asked not to be named in order to speak more freely about the talks.
STORY: House panel debate shows divide over Syria resolution
Story HighlightsWhite House agreed to back rebels after initially saying noMost rebels are not controlled by al Qaeda, officials say"Vetted" opposition groups need real support, Sen. Corker says
STORY: Senate committee approves Syria attack resolution
The White House had rejected earlier plans to arm the rebels, which were proposed in the early days of the war before significant numbers of extremist fighters began joining the fight and transforming the nature of the opposition.
By contrast, arming the rebels is part of a broader strategy aimed at tipping the balance on the battlefield and leading to Assad's removal from Saucony Jazz Original Vintage
At issue now is whether the administration waited too long to offer support to rebels fighting Assad, allowing al Qaeda affiliated fighters and other extremists to gather strength on the battlefield, turning a popular revolt into a civil war among many rival groups.
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