Clinton Tries to Broaden Ties With Syrian Opposition

US support for the rebels has been expanding despite Clinton's earlier objections that they weren't "viable" and were tied to "al-Qaeda

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained on Saturday that the US will broaden contacts with the Syrian opposition trying to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and work more with Turkey for “operational planning” of the Syrian conflict.

Visiting Turkey, Clinton pledged more military and intelligence cooperation with Ankara, which has been harboring, training, and arming members of the Free Syrian Army.

“We have been closely coordinating over the course of this conflict, but now we need to get into the real details of such operational planning,” Clinton said as she met with Syrian opposition figures in Turkey and with top Turkish officials.

“Our intelligence services, our military have very important responsibilities and roles to play so we are going to be setting up a working group to do exactly that,” she said.

The US has been sending non-lethal aid, like communications gear and intelligence assistance, to the rebel militias in Syria, while the CIA is facilitating the delivery of weapons from Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

According to one US intelligence estimate, as many as a quarter of the 300 rebel groups in Syria may be fighting under the banner of al-Qaeda, says Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Clinton spoke on Saturday of the need for the opposition to develop and become a cohesive force against the Assad regime. Despite this acknowledgement, she still explained the deepening US commitment to support these groups.

Back in February, Clinton responded to a reporter’s question on why the US wasn’t arming the Syrian rebels by saying that “we don’t see…the elements of an opposition that is actually viable.” She also warned of the rebels’ nefarious terrorist connections, asking “And to whom are you delivering them? We know al-Qaida, Zawahiri is supporting the opposition in Syria. Are we supporting al-Qaida in Syria? Hamas is now supporting the opposition. Are we supporting Hamas in Syria?”

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