Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

U.S. boosts staff at Syrian border

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. is increasing its presence at Syria's Turkish border, sending more spies and diplomats to help advise the rebel forces in their fight against the Syrian regime and to watch for possible al-Qaida infiltration of rebel ranks.

U.S. officials 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.

It is part of an 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 move is intended to help the U.S. decide whether its policy of providing only non-lethal aid is enough to keep momentum building in the 18-month revolt.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 7, 2012 A21

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