The United States has already started arming and training the militants who are fighting the Syrian government as the US military is preparing the ground for imminent strikes on Syria, US officials said Monday.
President Barack Obama hopes the “covert effort” would “yield results” after the US launches strikes on targets inside the Syrian territory, said the officials familiar with a conversation Obama had Monday with Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham at the White House. In the hour-long meeting, Obama “gave general support to doing more” for the foreign-backed militants in Syria, the New York Times reported, citing McCain, Republican of Arizona. The CIA has so far trained at least 50 militants, who are now going back into Syria to fight the Syrian government. McCain, who is one of President Obama’s most hawkish critics, said he would back a limited strike if Obama provided the Syrian militants with more arms. The Times noted there was broad agreement between Obama and the senators that “any attack on Syria should be to ‘degrade’ the Syrian government’s delivery systems.” Washington accused the Syrian government forces of carrying out an August 21 chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs killing hundreds of people. Syrian authorities categorically rejected the accusation. McCain and Graham are also set to meet with Susan E. Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, to discuss the strategy in greater depth, according to the newspaper. “It is all in the details, but I left the meeting feeling better than I felt before about what happens the day after and that the purpose of the attack is going to be a little more robust than I thought,” Graham said. But McCain said Obama did not say specifically what weapons might be provided to the militants or discuss in detail what Syrian targets might be attacked, according to the Times. The meeting came as reaction against US imminent strikes on Syria continued around the world over the past few days, with Russia saying that the evidence Washington provided for the allegation against Syria was just “some sketches” and contained “no supporting facts.”