The U.S. military is planning to send more than 400 soldiers to train Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State along with hundreds of U.S. support personnel, a Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday.

The training mission is expected to begin in the spring at sites outside Syria, Colonel Steve Warren said. Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have offered to host the training.

The Syrian state news agency SANA said the plan showed Washington was “continuing to support terrorism in Syria”. Syria’s government describes all of its armed opponents as terrorists.

The training program is a part of U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to field local forces in Syria to halt and eventually roll back Islamic State fighters, while pounding them with airstrikes.

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