CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Senate was expected to vote Thursday evening on President Barack Obama’s request to authorize U.S. military training and equipping of Syrian opposition forces in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
With a 273-156 vote Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an amendment for that authorization.
That amendment was attached to a continuing resolution that will fund the federal government through Dec. 11. As it stands now, the authorization to aid the Free Syrian Army will expire, at the latest, on that date as well.
All three of West Virginia’s U.S. House representatives—1st District Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.), 2nd District Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and 3rd District Congressman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.)—voted for the measure.
“The threat (from ISIS) must be taken seriously and I think that the President is using a strategy here that, while risky, time will tell if it’s going to be successful,” said Rahall. “We must take every step possible to ensure that American weapons do not fall into the wrong hands.”
“There are things here that the President has been slow to come to, that I don’t think this is a fully fleshed out strategy. There’s a lot of skepticism and I share that, but what we had before us was a 90-day plan to begin to formulate a more serious plan and that’s what I voted on,” said Capito.
Capito, Rahall and U.S. Sen.Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) talked about the proposed plans to arm Syrian rebels on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Manchin said he was expecting to be the only member of West Virginia’s Congressional delegation to vote against the proposal, a stance he said was based on the proposal to fund training for the Free Syrian Army.
“I’ve gone to every briefing, every hearing, every secure briefing, spoke to every general I could. All my intel, everything I could gather on this and then looked at the past history of 13 years we’ve been in that part of the world,” Manchin said. “I’ve said, if money or military might could have changed that part of the world, we’d have done it by now.”
In addition to training 5,000 Syrian rebels to retake areas that border Iraq, the larger U.S. strategy against ISIS includes advising Iraqi troops for an offensive move that would focus on areas north of Baghdad; supporting Kurdish forces in northern Iraq; bombing ISIS targets with U.S. airstrikes and seeking assistance from other Arab countries.