Obama adviser: Trained Syrian rebels could fight Assad

A top adviser to President Obama said the military intends for Syrian rebels to use their training to fight President Bashar Assad after they fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken laid out the strategy in response to criticism from Fox News’s Chris Wallace that the U.S. involvement in Syria is alienating anti-Assad rebels who see the fight against ISIS, also known as ISIL, as helping Assad.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We’ve seen strong expressions of support from the Syrian opposition for the effort that we’re making against ISIL,” Blinken said on "Fox News Sunday."

“The moderate opposition is key to both being able a counterweight on the ground to ISIL, and then, over time, also being a counterweight to Assad,” he added.

Wallace said anti-Assad Syrians were protesting around the country Friday against the U.S. airstrikes that started last week in an attempt to hit ISIS. Those protesters represent the same moderate Syrians that the U.S. is training and arming to fight ISIS on the ground, so that it does not have to send American troops.

But Blinken was certain that the moderate Syrians support the U.S. mission.

“Building them up enables us to have forces on the ground that can deal with ISIL as we use our air power and other unique assets,” Blinken said. “At the same time, if you’re going to change the dynamics in Syria, if you’re going to get to a political transition that moves Assad out, you’re going to have to have a strong moderate opposition.”

Wallace asked if the military is planning to enforce a no-fly zone over Syria to protect civilians from Assad’s forces. Blinken did not endorse the idea, but said the White House is considering it among a suite of options in its efforts in Syria.