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US, Turkey Sign Pact to Train Syrian Rebels

Fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State group marching in Raqqa, Syria, Jan. 14, 2014.

The United States and Turkey signed an agreement to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels fighting the Islamic State terrorist group.

The agreement was signed Thursday by the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, and Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary, Feridun Sinirlioglu, who called it "an important step" in the partnership between the two states.

The U.S. military has said it is planning to send more than 400 American troops, including special operations forces, to train vetted Syrian rebels at sites outside Syria as part of the fight against the Islamic State.

U.S. officials said they plan to train about 5,000 Syrian fighters from the Free Syrian Army over three years. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have publicly offered to host training sites.

Turkey, which shares a 750-mile border with Syria, says it hopes the training will also bolster the weakened and divided Syrian opposition in its war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose removal from power remains Turkey's most pressing goal in Syria.

The Obama administration, however, considers the Islamic State a more significant threat to regional security.