He said the U.S. aid will include weapons training and basic military tactics, and share intelligence to help guide the rebels to the right targets.
"Intelligence is a key component to helping the opposition warfighters to make sure they make the right decisions to turn the tide of this fight," said Ruppersberger.
The CIA has led U.S. outreach to the rebels from outside Syria, meeting rebels at refugee camps and towns along the Turkish and Jordanian borders. CIA paramilitary officers, as well as special operations trainers, have trained select groups of rebels in Jordan on the use of encrypted communications equipment — the nonlethal aid provided by the Obama administration — and they have helped the rebels learn how to fire anti-aircraft weapons and small arms provided by Gulf states.
"We've been looking at this for a long time now," said John McLaughlin, former acting director of the CIA. "You can do a pretty good diagram of who the rebel forces are, what the number of foreign fighters are. We've come to the conclusion that there is an acceptable level of risk, understanding we will lose control of some of the weapons."
Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Kimberly Dozier in Washington, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, Elaine Ganley in Paris and Cassadra Vinograd in London contributed to this report.