US House of Representatives clears bill to arm Syrian rebels
The US House of Representatives has approved a bill put forward by US President Barack Obama to train and equip Syrian rebels to combat Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants.
Passed by 273 to 156 votes, the bill was included as an amendment to a stop-gap federal spending measure that also easily passed the House.
The measure does not include any money to pay for the arms and training of the moderate Syrian rebels, and also failed to provide details about the training plan.
House Speaker John Boehner said: "By authorising the Department of Defense to help train and equip the Syrian opposition, this measure represents an important, initial step forward in taking on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
"ISIL represents a direct threat to the safety and security of the United States, and House Republicans are firmly committed to doing everything we can to help keep America safe."
However, Representative Barbara Lee said: "There are too many unanswered questions for me to support this amendment.
"How will we ensure that the United States weapons we are providing to Syrian rebels will not get into the wrong hands, as they did with the rebels we supported in Libya?"
The Senate is expected to vote as soon as possible, so that the legislation can be sent to Obama to sign into law.
Meanwhile, speaking to soldiers at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Obama said that US soldiers will not engage in combat, but will provide air power and air mobility, and also train and equip partners.
"We will lead a broad coalition of countries who have a stake in this fight, because this is not simply America vs ISIL, this is the people of the region fighting against ISIL."
Approximately 40 countries have agreed to join the US in the fight against the terrorist group, which controls large parts of Iraq and Syria.
The US is already conducting an aerial campaign against the terrorists in Iraq, and has launched a total of 174 air strikes since early August.
Image: US President Barack Obama, alongside defense secretary Chuck Hagel and US Central Command commander army general Lloyd Austin at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, US. Photo: courtesy of the US Department of Defense, photo from video.