Dempsey, Hagel set to defend Syria plan

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelAlmost 100 former officials, members of Congress urge Senate action on election security GOP Senate candidate said Republicans have 'dual loyalties' to Israel White House aide moves to lobbying firm MORE could face tough questioning Tuesday as Congress considers the president's plan to train and equip fighters inside Syria.

Last year, Dempsey wrote a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying that he supported developing  moderate Syrian forces, but outlining dangers within the plan.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Risks include extremists gaining access to additional capabilities, and insider attacks or inadvertent association with war crimes due to vetting difficulties," he said in the July 2013 letter.

Lawmakers could face a vote on whether to authorize the training and equipping program as early as this week, and some are reluctant to do so amid concerns that weapons provided to the forces may end up in the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans Democratic congressman calls for study of effects of sex-trafficking law McConnell says he's 'honored' to be WholeFoods Magazine's 2019 'Person of the Year' MORE (R-Ky.) on Monday called the plan a "mistake."

"It’s a mistake to arm them. Most of the arms we’ve given to the so-called moderate rebels have wound up in the hands of ISIS, because ISIS simply takes it from them, or it’s given to them, or we mistakenly actually give it to some of the radicals," Paul said on CBS.

The administration has publicly released few details of the proposal to date.

The plan calls for arming and training "more than 5,000" moderate Syrians over one year, in a nation aside from Syria, the Pentagon said Monday.

The White House has asked for $500 million for the program, but Dempsey said in 2013 that that would be the cost "initially."

Dempsey and Hagel are both set to testify Tuesday and expected to outline the international support for the U.S. plan.

"We're not going to speak for any countries, but [Hagel] will provide some perspective on the very international element to this strategy," Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said. "Some are willing to participate in actual strike missions, others are not, some are participating in Kurdish resupply efforts, some are contributing to the humanitarian relief that's been provided thus far, and may be needed to be provided in the future."

"So we're building a broad coalition of countries, but it's a coalition of the willing," he added.