- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2013

A senior U.S. figure said the Obama administration may expand its support for Syrian rebel fighters — to include Islamist groups that seized American equipment and gear stored at a warehouse near the Syrian-Turkey border.

The Washington Post said that support would be conditional on those Islamist groups not having any affiliation with al Qaeda. Moreover, the Islamists would have to be on board with the United States’ position in upcoming peace talks in Geneva, the unnamed senior officials said in the newspaper.

One other condition: The Islamists, including the powerful Islamic Front, would have to return items they seized — like communications equipment and U.S. vehicles — from warehouses that are located on the border between Syria and Turkey. The items were intended to be given to the Supreme Military Council of Syrian rebel fighters, a group backed by the United States. And the theft led the White House to cancel U.S. shipments of supplies and aid this week through Turkey, The Post reported.

The Islamic Front includes Salafists who want to set up an Islamic nation in Syria, but separate and independent from al Qaeda, The Post reported. The group has also been pushing to be included in peace talks and in the SMC, the senior U.S. official said.

“We don’t have a problem with the Islamic Front,” the U.S. official said, The Post reported. But the United States isn’t yet sold on allowing them to join the SMC — and that’s a “work in progress,” he said.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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