“The CIA has stepped up secret contingency planning toprotect the United States and its allies as the turmoil expands inSyria, including collecting intelligence on Islamic extremists forthe first time for possible lethal drone strikes,” according tocurrent and former US officials, reported in the LA Times.The agency’s counterterrorism center has recently transferred anunspecified number of targeting officers to the area. The center isnotorious for its previous drone campaigns in Yemen andPakistan.Targeting officers are responsible for the compilation of largepackages of information on specific zones. Those working on Syriaare currently based at the organization’s headquarters in Langley,Virginia, as not many US operatives have been deployed to thearea.The increased focus on identifying threats in Syria carries theimplication that the agency is preparing plans for counter-action –both violent and nonviolent – against potential militants, the LosAngeles Times reported.“If we do this, why don’t we start droning people in Hezbollah?” aformer CIA officer with experience in Iraq told the Los AngelesTimes. “It opens the door for a lot of other things.”Top Dem: ‘Training and arming Syrian rebels to benefit US’In a trend apparently countering the CIA’s alleged securityefforts, a US lawmaker is set to propose a bill on Monday insupport of providing arms and training to Syrian opposition forces,as well as economic backing. Should the arms be delivered, theycould easily fall into the hands of the same militants they seek tosuppress.Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign AffairsCommittee, wrote a letter to his house colleagues seeking theirsupport for a bill to provide arms and training to Syrian rebels,applying pressure to the Obama’s administration.”US training and arming of carefully vetted Syrian oppositionforces offer many potential benefits, but two stand out above all:Bringing the humanitarian disaster to an end as soon as possibleand helping ensure that the US has a constructive relationship witha successor government in Damascus,” said the letter obtainedby AP.The idea is supported by officials from both parties – last month,Republican Sen. Marco Rubio suggested providing the Syrianopposition with ammunition, and Secretary of State John Kerryannounced a package of ‘nonlethal assistance.’European media reported that the US, UK and France are alreadytraining rebels in Jordan, while Paris and London are bothattempting to bring forward an EU meeting to lift the arms embargoon Syria. Planned for May, the two countries are pressing for it totake place before the end of March.If the union does not end the embargo, the two nations will stillarm the Syrian rebels, France said.However, this course of action could come with its own problems:“Weapons are in high demand by all rebel factions and there islittle means to effectively prevent arms from gravitating towardhardcore Al-Qaeda fighters,” political analyst Nile Bowie toldRT.On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that anyarming of the opposition in Syria would be a violation ofinternational law.On Friday, Syria witnessed the second anniversary of the uprisingfrom which the conflict sprouted, with many saying they feared forthe country’s future.