WASHINGTON — The United States is ramping up its presence at Syria's Turkish border, sending more spies and diplomats to help advise the rebel forces in their mismatched fight against the better-armed Syrian regime, and to watch for possible al-Qaida infiltration of rebel ranks, the Associated Press reported.
U.S. officials briefed on the plan said the modest surge in U.S. personnel in the past few weeks, estimated at fewer than a dozen people, has helped improve rebels' political organizing skills as well as their military organization, the AP said. The officials spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to discuss the plans publicly.
It's part of a two-pronged effort by the Obama administration to bolster the rebels militarily without contributing weapons to the fight, and politically, to help them stave off internal power challenges by the well-organized and often better-funded hardline Islamic militants who have flowed into the country from Iraq and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region.
The increased intelligence gathered is intended to help the White House decide whether its current policy of providing only nonlethal aid is enough to keep momentum building in the nearly 18-month revolt against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Spokesmen for the Pentagon and White House declined to comment Thursday.