Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response
Congressional Research Service Washington
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The rise of the insurgent terrorist group known as the Islamic State IS, aka the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISILISIS and Russias military intervention on behalf of the Syrian government have reshaped debates over U.S. policy toward the ongoing civil conflict in Syria, now in its fifth year. The Islamic State controls large areas of northeastern and central Syria, from which it continues to launch assaults on forces opposed to and aligned with the government of President Bashar al Asad. Meanwhile, fighting elsewhere pits government forces and their foreign allies against a range of anti-government insurgents, some of whom have received limited U.S. assistance. Russian military intervention in support of Asad poses a direct challenge to U.S. goals in Syria, and is raising new questions about the future of the conflict and U.S. strategy. Since March 2011, the conflict has driven more than 4.1 million Syrians into neighboring countries as refugees out of a total population of more than 22 million. More than 7.5 million other Syrians are internally displaced and are among more than 12 million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance. The United States remains the largest bilateral provider of such assistance, with more than 4.5 billion in U.S. funding identified to date. The United States also has allocated more than 440 million to date for nonlethal assistance to select opposition groups, and President Obama requested 385 million in FY2015 and FY2016 Overseas Contingency Operations OCO funding for such assistance. The 600 million FY2016 defense request for the Syria Train and Equip program may support a planned shift in the program toward equipping vetted units in Syria. The Administration also seeks more than 1.6 billion in Syria-related FY2016 humanitarian aid and refugee response funds.