FSA requests U.S. training support

The new commander of the Free Syrian Army, the opposition to Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime, recently requested U.S. help in training elite rebel units for special operations, humanitarian law and chemical weapons security.

In a letter dated February 4, Brig. Gen. Salim Idriss requested the support for the FSA and supplies for the units including combat armor, tactical communications and night goggles. The request comes as Syrian opposition fighters make major gains on the battlefield, the Washington Post reports.

Recent military gains by the FSA include the al-Jarrah air base near Aleppo, the Thawra hydroelectric dam on the Euphrates, the Aleppo International Airport southeast of Aleppo and Damascus and its suburbs.

One Syrian strategist working closely with the FSA said that creating an elite commando force with help from the U.S. could prevent Syria from becoming a failed state.

"We still believe FSA on the ground is still needed badly to tip the power and support other parallel solutions, including the political one," the Syrian strategist said, according to the Washington Post. "But FSA (has) become a jungle...My recommendation is...to start working on elite (forces that can)...initiate key attacks plus help as a buffer from potential warlords and fights among fragmented FSA factions. Plus, this unit can handle other key tasks, like securing chemical weapons."

The strategist said that a negotiated settlement between al-Assad's regime and the FSA will require the United States, Russia and the United Nations to find a way out of the deadlocked conflict, the Washington Post reports.