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US spy chiefs say number of foreign militants in Syria rises

Militant Website / AP

This undated image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, shows fighters from the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria.

More than 7,000 foreign militants are fighting for the rebels in Syria’s civil war and some are being trained to return home and conduct attacks, U.S. spy chiefs told lawmakers on Wednesday.

The estimate, given at a Senate intelligence hearing, was much higher than earlier figures of 3,000 to 4,000 foreign fighters in Syria, and came after news emerged this week that Congress had secretly approved more funding to send weapons to “moderate” rebels.

“We estimate, at this point, an excess of 7,000 foreign fighters have been attracted from some 50 countries, many of them in Europe and the Mideast,” James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, told the hearing.

“And this is of great concern not only to us, but to those countries,” he said at the Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual hearing on global security threats.

U.S. spy agencies had not previously made the figure of 7,000 public, though it has appeared in classified intelligence reports, a U.S. official said.

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US arms flow hinders Geneva II talks on Syria: Analyst

The ongoing Geneva II talks on the crisis in Syria will fail to yield “concrete” results as long as the United States continues to support the militancy in the Arab state, an analyst tells Press TV.

In a Thursday interview with Press TV, William Jones, with the Executive Intelligence Review, described Washington’s decision to send more arms to the militants in Syria as a “contradictory policy.”

According to Jones, the ongoing Geneva II conference, aimed at containing the crisis in Syria, will not “lead to anything concrete as long as there’s a policy of supporting the violence in the region.”

“They (Americans) are feeding in more guns and ammunition. The violence will increase and it’s hard to see how [Geneva II] negotiations under those circumstances can lead to a lasting peace,” added the analyst.

Jones made the statements after Reuters reported earlier this week that lawmakers in the US Congress had secretly approved the provision of US arms to the Takfiri militants fighting against the Syrian government.

Reports also say the US increased more than twice its supply of light weaponry and munitions to the militants linked to the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA)’s Supreme Military Command in the month of January. The military command is aligned with the Western-backed opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC).

The Geneva II meeting, which opened in Switzerland on January 22, has already hit a deadlock amid sharp differences between the Syrian government and the foreign-backed opposition.

On Wednesday, UN-Arab League Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said there is a “quite large” gap between the rival sides in the Geneva II meeting. He has also said that the ongoing talks have not produced much.

MKA/HJL

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