WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The White House should resist calls to equip Syrian opposition forces with heavy weapons, such as man portable air defense systems (MANPADS), because they could be turned against US-led coalition as well as Russian warplanes, former US Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb told Sputnik.
"I think the key thing is not giving them… MANPADS because you could be shooting down Russian airliners and not just [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s planes," Korb said on Friday. "Or else they [MANPADS] fall into the hands of ISIL, which then starts using them to shoot down our planes or Turkish planes or British planes or Saudi planes."
On Friday, US officials said Washington would continue to equip Syrian opposition forces but would not provide them with heavy weapons, including MANPADs.
President Barack Obama, Korb noted, has wisely refrained from interfering militarily in Syria’s civil war despite a lot of pressure from critics to do so.
The US military loses control of the advanced weapons provided to the Syrian opposition, which ultimately wind-up into the hands of the wrong people, like the ISIL, he added.
The Obama administration announced it will pause the training aspect of its train-and-equip program in Syria. In 2014, the United States authorized $500 million to train and equip 5,400 moderate Syrian fighters by the end of 2015.
The first round of training yielded fewer than 60 fighters, of which only four or five are now engaged on the battlefield, according to the Defense Department.