WASHINGTON (AP) — More Arab fighters are joining Syria's U.S.-backed militia due to its success against the Islamic State group and other militants, senior Pentagon officials said Thursday as they urged lawmakers to provide nearly $50 million in additional support to the indigenous forces.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the number of Arabs in the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces doubled over the last month — from 2,500 to 5,000.
Dunford said a "snowball effect" is responsible for the growth and he expects it continue.
"People now are more willing to join us because they see the level of support that we're providing and more importantly the level of success that these forces are having," he said.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the Syrian Democratic Forces "are on the move" and he urged lawmakers to quickly untangle a bureaucratic knot that has slowed the additional money the Pentagon is seeking to back the militia and sustain the momentum.
Four different committees on Capitol Hill have given four different answers to the department's request, Carter said.
"It's really tough to wage a campaign under those circumstances," he said.
Overall, Dunford said, there are as many as 15,000 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
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