06:22 GMT +310 December 2019
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    Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford arrives at the Senate Armed Services committee nomination hearing to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Capitol Hill in Washington July 9, 2015

    US Lacks Legal OK to Protect Rebel Allies From Syrian Army

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    The nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, noted, however, that if the United States sends rebels into Syria, it should provide “a full range of capability for them to be successful.”

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Syrian rebels in the US train-and-equip program must take a pledge to fight the Islamic State and not the Syrian regime, in part because the United States does not have the legal authority to conduct airstrikes on the Syrian military if the rebels come under attack, the nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, stated on Thursday.

    “We do not have the authority to take action against [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s forces so unless that policy would change then that pledge [to only fight Islamic State] would be required,” Dunford told a US Senate confirmation hearing.

    Dunford noted, however, that if the United States sends rebels into Syria, it should provide “a full range of capability for them to be successful.”

    A strict vetting process for Syrian rebels, including a pledge to only fight the Islamic State, has led to a slow pace of accepting recruits to the program.

    The United States currently has only 60 Syrian rebels in the train and equip program.

    Since the beginning of the train-and-equip program three months ago, the United States has been working to screen and vet about 7,000 Syrian volunteers.

    As part of the vetting process the United States is working to ensure Syrian volunteers pass counterintelligence screening, meet standards regarding the law of armed conflict, and are committed to fighting the Islamic State.

    According to media reports, several rebel groups have shunned the program because it does not focus on overthrowing the Assad government.


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