White House Was For Arming Syrian Rebels Before It Was Against It

September 29, 2015

The Obama administration supported arming Syrian rebels before announcing it was against it.

Administration figures have tried to distance themselves from the $500 million program to train moderate Syrian opposition fighters in light of its scant results.

The program has produced "four or five" fighters to combat the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL), according to testimony by U.S. Central Command Cmdr. Michael Austin. Some fighters trained by the U.S. promptly turned their equipment over to al Nusra, an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has tried to cast the president as a skeptic of the program that went along with it against his better judgment.

Earnest’s comments from 2014 show the other side of the argument, as do comments from President Obama and other administration figures.

"The president does believe that there would be value… to ramp up assistance that we provide to members of the moderate opposition," Earnest said at a September press briefing.

"We need to put more resources into the moderate opposition," Obama told NBC correspondent Chuck Todd.

Transcript below:

JOSH EARNEST (9/16/15): Many of you have understandably asked me questions about the claims of our critics who suggest that the administration should invest more deeply in training and equipping members of the Syrian opposition, that that was the recipe for success … That is not something this administration ever believed, but it is something that our critics will have to answer for.

EARNEST (6/30/14): The president for some time has been concerned that the lawlessness and violence we’ve seen in Syria does have a destabilizing, dangerous impact … A way to address that, in our view, is to bolster the moderate opposition, provide them additional assistance.

BARACK OBAMA (9/07/14): We have a Free Syrian Army and a moderate opposition, that we have steadily been working with, that we have vetted … At the West Point speech I gave, I said we need to put more resources into the moderate opposition.

EARNEST (9/09/14): The president does believe that there would be value…to ramp up assistance that we provide to members of the moderate opposition.

JOHN KERRY (9/18/14) Stepping up the efforts with respect to the moderate opposition is an essential piece of any strategy against ISIL.

OBAMA (9/18/14): With this effort, we will provide training and equipment to help them grow stronger.

EARNEST (9/16/15): But I think it’s also time for our critics to fess up in this regard as well. They were wrong.