The House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday to train and arm Syrian rebels to fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) by a vote of 273 to 156.
Defense officials plan to recruit and train 5,000 moderate Syrian rebels to fight against ISIS from among those already involved in the over three-year-old civil war. The amendment enables the Pentagon to shift around budget funds to pay for the program.
There is support within the Pentagon for providing moderate Syrian rebels with small arms and ammunition, as well as battlefield artillery and anti-tank rockets, Reuters reported. Critics of the plan worry that these weapons could fall into the wrong hands, including ISIS fighters. It is also unclear who the U.S. plans to arm.
"Today's vote is another step closer to having the authorization to train and equip vetted elements of the moderate Syrian opposition so they can defend themselves against, and ultimately push back on, ISIL forces in Syria, while creating the conditions for the political solution necessary to solve Syria's crisis once and for all," President Obama said in a statement after the vote. "This training program will be conducted outside of Syria, in partnership with regional countries."
The legislation did not include provisions to provide $500 million that President Obama said is needed to train Syrian rebels as part of the administration's larger goal to "degrade and destroy" ISIS.
The Senate is expected to vote on a similar measure later this week.