U.S. officials have not disclosed any details about the weapons they intend to send to Syria or when and how they will be delivered. According to officials, the U.S. is most likely to provide the rebel fighters with small arms, ammunition, assault rifles and a variety of anti-tank weaponry such as shoulder-fired rocket-propelled grenades and other missiles.
As of Friday, however, no final decisions had been made on the details or when it would reach the rebels, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal administration discussions with reporters.
Obama has consistently said he will not put American troops in Syria, making it less likely the U.S. will provide sophisticated arms or anti-aircraft weapons that would require large-scale training. Administration officials are also worried about high-powered weapons ending up in the hands of terrorist groups. Hezbollah fighters are among those backing Assad's armed forces, and al-Qaida-linked extremists back the rebellion.
The lethal aid will largely be coordinated by the CIA, but that effort will also be buttressed by an increased U.S. military presence in Jordan.
U.S. officials say Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is about to approve orders that would leave roughly a dozen F-16 fighter jets and a Patriot missile battery in Jordan after ongoing military exercises there end later next week. That would result in several hundred more U.S. troops staying in Jordan to support the fighters and missiles, in addition to the approximately 250 that have been there for some time.
The added military troops and equipment are designed to increase stability in the region and are not part of the effort to train Syrian rebels or take part in any offensive operations in Syria, the U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the details.