US will 'protect' Syrian rebels when time comes: envoy

Opposition fighters celebrate through the eastern rebel-held area of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo after taking back government held areas in the surrounding countryside of the city on February 21, 2015The United States will be ready to “protect” moderate Syrian rebels possibly with air power once they enter into combat, a top US official said Monday. Retired US general John Allen, President Barack Obama’s envoy to the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group, insisted that once moderate Syrian rebels were vetted, trained and armed, they would not be abandoned on the battlefield. “It is clearly part of our plan, that not only we will train them, and we will equip them with the latest weapons systems, but we will also protect them when the time comes,” Allen said at an event organized by the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington. Washington has clashed with other coalition members about its approach to Syria, preferring to focus for the moment on battling the IS group, while putting off any potential confrontation with the regime in Damascus.

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