Syria opposition sacks rebel command over graft allegations
BEIRUT - Agence France-Presse
Free Syrian Army fighters hold their weapons as they walk in the Aleppo countryside May 26, 2014. REUTERS Photo
Syria's opposition government sacked the military command of the rebel Free Syrian Army late Thursday over corruption allegations, as the White House asked lawmakers for $500 million for moderate insurgents.
A statement by the opposition government said its chief Ahmad Tohme "decided to disband the Supreme Military Council and refer its members to the government's financial and administration committee for investigation".
The decision came amid widespread reports of corruption within the ranks of the FSA, which is backed by Western and Arab governments in its battle to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
The government in exile said it was also sacking FSA chief of staff Brigadier General Abdelilah al-Bashir.
It called on "revolutionary forces on the ground" to set up within a month a new defence council and to fully restructure the rebel army's command.
The announcement on Facebook came as US President Barack Obama asked Congress to approve $500 million to train and equip "the moderate Syrian opposition".
The request coincides with growing unrest in Syria's neighbour Iraq where Sunni militants led by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are battling the government.
ISIL, which aspires to create an Islamic state that straddles Iraq and Syria, has spearheaded the lightning jihadist offensive that has already captured swathes of territory north and west of Baghdad.
On Thursday ISIL reportedly bolstered its presence in the Syrian town of Albu Kamal on the border with Iraq, a day after Al-Qaeda's franchise in Syria, Al-Nusra Front, pledged loyalty to the group there giving it control over both sides of the frontier.
ISIL and other Islamists fighters in Syria are better armed and financed than the FSA, which has been pleading for greater support from the international community.
Since the Syria conflict erupted three years ago, the United States has provided "non-lethal" support to the moderate opposition trying to oust Assad.
Earlier this month National Security Advisor Susan Rice acknowledged that the Pentagon was also delivering "lethal" support.
About $287 million in mainly non-lethal support has been cleared for the rebels since March 2011, and the CIA has participated in a covert military training programme in neighbouring Jordan for the moderate opposition.