Petraeus, Crocker Support Plan To Arm and Train Syrian Rebels

Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testify on Capitol Hill about the ongoing situation in Iraq, on April 8, 2008.

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Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker testify on Capitol Hill about the ongoing situation in Iraq, on April 8, 2008.

In a letter to Congress, the former ‘dream team’ of the Iraq War is backing a plan to train and equip Syrian rebels. By Ben Watson

Retired Gen. David Petraeus and former ambassadors Ryan Crocker and Robert Ford are throwing their support behind the plan to train and equip vetted moderate rebels in Syria.

In a letter to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., Petraeus, Crocker and Ford, along with retired Gen. Jack Keane said there is “no viable alternative” to stopping the spread of the Islamic State in Syria and ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Petraeus led U.S. troops in Iraq during the troop surge of 2007. Crocker is a career ambassador who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Kuwait, Lebanon and Pakistan. Ford stepped down as ambassador to Syria in February over his frustration of U.S. foreign policy in the war-torn country.

“Providing greater assistance to [the Free Syrian Army] is the United States’ best opportunity to develop a moderate force that is capable of defeating ISIS and bringing about a post-Assad Syria that is free of terror,” their letter reads.

McKeon introduced an amendment this week authorizing the president to begin the training mission which, like the spending bill it accompanies, expires on Dec. 11. It also requires the Pentagon to update Congress on the mission every 90 days.

[Related: Fight the Islamic State in Iraq? Sure. In Syria? Not So Much]

But the plan to train and equip the rebels has been met with skepticism on Capitol Hill, including by some Democrats. On the Senate floor on Wednesday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) backed the president’s plan to support the fight against the Islamic State. But Manchin said he “cannot and will not support arming or training the Syrian opposition force.”

“We have been at war in that part of the world for the past 13 years,” he said. “If money and military might could have made a difference, it would have by now.”

The generals and ambassadors cautioned that although they support McKeon’s amendment, Congress shouldn’t view it as an open-ended campaign. “But,” they said, “time is of the essence, and we are convinced of the urgent need for Congress to authorize this effort.”

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