WASHINGTON (AP) -- The top U.S. commander in the Middle East says he'd like his forces to protect the Syrian rebels the U.S. is training to fight the Islamic State group.
But, Gen. Lloyd Austin told Congress Thursday, he's waiting for the White House to respond to his recommendation.
U.S. forces are training moderates to fight the Islamic State militants in Syria. But many of those rebels oppose President Bashar Assad and may also want to fight him.
The U.S. has been reluctant to engage Assad's forces as it pursues a bombing campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria.
More than 220,000 people have been killed since the conflict between Assad's opponents and Syrian government troops began in March 2011.
The Islamic State group controls about one-third of Syria and Iraq.