The State Department denied multiple reports of U.S. Special Forces and other military groups training the Syrian Opposition Coalition in Jordan on Tuesday saying that the only training they have given to Syrians has been “non-lethal.” State Department Deputy Spokesman Patrick Ventrell said that the United States has only given “food” and “medical training” to the Syrian Coalition and only supports “non-lethal” training. He did add, however, that the United States “won’t stand in the way” of other countries arming the Syrian Opposition with “heavy” weapons. When asked specifically about the reports released on Tuesday that detailed military style training by U.S. forces, Ventrell declined to comment saying, “I don’t have anything for you on that.”
QUESTION: Patrick, I wondered if you could clarify something in the assistance that you’re providing to Syria, that – the U.S. position is not to provide weapons. What about training for fighters, either military or nonmilitary training for fighters? Is that –
MR. VENTRELL: You know where we are on training on nonlethal assistance. That hasn’t changed. We continue to provide nonlethal assistance to the opposition. In terms of any assistance directly to the SMC, that has been food and medical kits. But I don’t have anything beyond that for you.
QUESTION: Just to follow up his question, Secretary Kerry also made clear that U.S. is not standing in the way for arming the rebels. Are you also okay with others, other allies to support with heavy weapons to rebels?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, look, we’ve made our decision about our nonlethal assistance. Other countries have made their decisions. We’re not going to parse it.
QUESTION: So heavy weapons are also -
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, again, this is to reaffirm that we think that a political transition is the best way to end this violence, and so that’s what we support and that’s where we’ve long stood.
QUESTION: But isn’t there limits to that policy, that you will not stand in the way of others arming the rebels? Can people send tanks, can they send MANPADS, can they send things that could potentially cause a lot of trouble?
MR. VENTRELL: Look, I mean, in some regards, this is a hypothetical because I don’t think we’re there yet, where that –
QUESTION: Well, it’s your policy. You have a policy statement that you won’t support – that you won’t stand in the way of countries deciding to arm the rebels.
MR. VENTRELL: Look, I think the cart is getting in front of the horse a little bit. That’s not the kind of thing I’ve heard other countries talking about, but – again, Jill, go ahead.
QUESTION: Patrick, there are two reports at least out there that the United States is directly training Syrian opposition fighters in Jordan. I know we’ve kind of been over this, but just to set the record straight, what can you tell us?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have anything for you on that. Toria said that before, I’ll say it again; I don’t have anything for you on that.