Secretary of State John Kerry speaks about the situation in Syria from the Treaty Room at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on Friday.(Photo: Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - Extremist groups make up between 15% and 25% of the rebels fighting Syrian leader Bashar Assad, but moderate forces are growing stronger as a result of support from regional allies, Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress on Wednesday.
"I just don't agree that a majority are al-Qaeda and the bad guys," Kerry said in testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "That's not true."
Kerry's comments come as the administration embarks on an effort to support and arm rebel groups. His testimony was part of President Obama's lobbying effort to get a congressional resolution for a limited strike to deter Assad from using chemical weapons.
By contrast, arming the rebels is part of a broader strategy aimed at tipping the balance on the battlefield and leading to Assad's removal from power.