Kerry appears to confirm US helping train Syrian opposition

Fox News

Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to confirm Tuesday that the U.S. is  training anti-Assad forces in the Syria conflict, saying the hope is to convince  President Bashar Assad to “change his current calculation.”

Kerry, speaking to Fox News in Doha, Qatar, became the first U.S. official to  acknowledge the off-site training on the record. He would not go into detail  about the training, describing it as “one part” of the U.S. effort and something  that “a lot of countries” are doing.

“I think what President Obama is hoping is to build on what has already  happened. The president put in place sanctions and that helps to strip some of  President Assad’s ability to fuel his war machine,” Kerry said. 

A senior State Department official, though, later said Kerry was not  confirming which specific countries were involved.

“In discussing the training of opposition fighters, the Secretary was  referring to the totality of effort by Allies and partners who attended the Rome  conference. He explicitly declined to say which countries are involved in that  aspect of our joint effort,” the official told Fox News.

The New York Times previously reported on the effort to train Syrian  opposition forces, quoting unnamed officials, but this is the first time the  State Department has spoken openly about it.

“There are a lot of nations working at this,” Kerry said of the effort to  pressure Assad. “And so I think President Assad needs to read the tea leaves  correctly.”

Kerry, who is on his maiden international tour as secretary of state, cited  last week’s meeting in Rome where European nations joined the U.S. in offering  support to the Syrian opposition. This included an additional $60 million in aid  from the Obama administration and a commitment to provide non-lethal  aid.

Kerry described the international sentiment as a “conviction that no nation  is going to stand by while he slaughters his people with SCUD missiles, and his  jets dropping bombs. And … we’ve ratcheted up yet another level with the hope  of convincing him and his allies that the time has come to really negotiate with  the transitional government.”

Kerry also discussed the ongoing investigation into the Sept. 11, 2012,  terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Though some in Congress are  concerned the investigation has not made measurable progress over the last six  months, Kerry voiced confidence in the FBI’s work.

“Justice sometimes takes a while when you operate by high standards and when  you need the levels of evidence that we do. But we are working at it and we will  continue to work at it,” he said.

Kerry revealed that he has visited with one of the survivors of the attack,  whom he described as “a remarkably courageous person, who is doing very, very  well.” He said he also talked to the survivor’s wife. Kerry could not say why  the public has heard so little about the survivors of the attack.

Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, died in the Benghazi  assault.

Kerry, who in 2004 ran for president against George W. Bush largely on an  anti-Iraq war message, on Tuesday praised President Obama for “getting our  troops out of Iraq.”

But, as the U.S. approaches 10 years since the start of the Iraq war, Kerry  also said Bush “deserves credit for what the troops did when they went  in.”

He said the troops “did an absolutely stunning job, an extraordinary  job.”

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