Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response
Congressional Research Service Washington United States
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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 sixth 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 4.8 million Syrians into neighboring countries as refugees out of a total population of more than 22 million. More than 6.1 million other Syrians are internally displaced and are among more than 13.5 million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance. The United States remains the largest bilateral provider of such assistance, with more than 5.5 billion in U.S. funding identified to date. The United States also has allocated more than 500 million to date for assistance programs in Syria, including the provision of nonlethal equipment to select opposition groups. President Obama requested 238.5 million in FY2017 funding for such assistance. The Administration also requested 250 million in FY2017 defense funds for its Syria Train and Equip program.