March 11, 2015 / 5:08 PM / in 3 years

U.S. may be unable to defend U.S.-backed Syria fighters from Assad

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States does not appear to have clear-cut legal authority to protect Syrian rebels it trains from attack by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, even if Congress approves new war powers, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter testifies at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on "The President's Request for Authorization to Use Force Against ISIS: Military and Diplomatic Efforts" on Capitol Hill in Washington March 11, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Still, Carter said a final determination has not been made.

“My understanding of that question is that we don’t foresee that happening any time soon, but a legal determination, I’m told by the lawyers, has not been made, whether we would have authority to do that or not,” he told a Senate hearing.

Reporting by Phil Stewart, Patricia Zengerle and David Alexander

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