The House passed an annual defense bill on May 15 that instructs the Pentagon to ensure that Syrian rebels trained by the United States have the ability to defend themselves against Assad’s forces. Another provision, however, seeks to blacklist vetted units and individuals from further US assistance if they fight the Syrian army instead of the Islamic State (IS).
“We [have] spent literally trillions of dollars in the Middle East in what many would describe as wars of choice and nation building,” said Rep. Nick Nolan, D-Minn., who sponsored the provision to penalize Syrian rebels who have “misused” US military assistance. “All too often, the moneys have made a mockery of our good intentions and ended up in the wrong hands and in many cases used against us.
“The underlying legislation requires the Department of Defense … to give us a list of who money has been given to in Syria and Iraq to fight [IS]. My legislation says that when they find evidence that those funds have been misused by anyone of those parties, they can no longer be recipients of our funding.”
A separate provision from Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, however, demands that the Pentagon certify to Congress that US-backed rebels are getting enough help to be “able to defend themselves from attacks by [IS] and government of Syria forces.” Thornberry’s amendment also requires that the Pentagon issue a “comprehensive strategy for Syria and Iraq” that includes a “description of United States policy and strategy for addressing the Assad regime in Syria and the post-Assad regime in Syria.”