WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, released the following statement after the Obama administration announced its decision to end the Pentagon’s $500 million program to train and equip Syrian rebels. Last month, Murphy called on the Obama administration to suspend the train and equip program after traveling to the Middle East and meeting with U.S. military commander and foreign leaders. Last week, he, along with U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah), called on U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Ash Carter, U.S. Department of State Secretary John Kerry, and Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan to end the Syria train and equip program.
“As I've warned from the very beginning, the U.S. train and equip program was deeply problematic. For nearly two years, I’ve raised concerns about the potential for the Syrian Opposition to coordinate with and provide American weapons to al-Nusra, an al Qaeda offshoot – concerns that have, unfortunately, been borne out on the ground. In the wake of such disturbing revelations – most recently when Syrian rebels trained by the United States gave U.S.-issued equipment to the al-Nusra Front – I am pleased that the Obama administration has suspended the program’s operation. An effective campaign to degrade ISIL does not require the U.S. to become dangerously intertwined into the Syrian civil war.
“Having personally met with U.S. military leaders implementing this program during my trip to the Middle East last month, I am appreciative of their hard work. This is a moment for the United States to reevaluate our regional strategy and focus on our core strategic interests—which include supporting our allies in the region, continuing to degrade ISIL, and addressing the plight of Syrian refugees. I will continue to work in the Senate to provide additional funding for those critical efforts, but I strongly caution the administration against pursuing any further overt or clandestine operations to intervene in the Syrian civil war.”