As it ends training rebels to displace Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, the United States has opted not to throw good money after bad by sticking instead to limited operations in Turkey. At the same time, Russian airstrikes have taken out the main weapons depots of a U.S.-trained rebel group.
According to the New York Times, General Lloyd J. Austin III, the head of Centcom, recently admitted to a senate committee that only four or five Syrians trained by the American military to fight the Islamic State remain engaged. His admission that ends training rebels, underscores a $500 million program to raise an army of Syrian fighters going up in smoke. He said there is no way the U.S. would have 5,000 trained Syrian fighters anytime soon.
ABC News reported that in six months, only 125 rebel candidates emerged from the program intended to train 5,400 moderate Syrians in the first 12 months. Already these trainees who returned to Syria have been targeted by Islamic opposition groups. One-hundred and twenty candidates continue to train even while the White House officially ends the policy of training rebels.
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook released a press statement regarding the shift in policy. Using the government acronym ISIL instead of ISIS for Islamic State, Cook explained how the new official position ends training rebels.
“Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is now directing the Department of Defense to provide equipment packages and weapons to a select group of vetted leaders and their units so that over time they can make a concerted push into territory still controlled by I.S.I.L. We will monitor the progress these groups make and provide them with air support as they take the fight to I.S.I.L. This focus on equipping and enabling will allow us to reinforce the progress already made in countering I.S.I.L. in Syria.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, the $500 million write-off as the U.S. ends its training program aimed at producing more than 5,000 fighters every year for three years, is the cost of poor strategy. In contrast, Russian involvement on the side of President Bashar al-Assad has been swift, sending warplanes to strike not only ISIS positions, but also those of U.S.-backed rebels.
Colonel Mohammad Daher from the first class of recruits, called the U.S. program a failure from the start. Speaking in Turkey where he was holed up to escape the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, he showed how the program’s inability to meet desired ends lies in not training enough rebels to be effective on the battlefield.
“The program was a failure in everything. The basis that it was built upon was faulty. But in eight months to only train about 100 fighters, they can’t accomplish anything on the ground, they can’t even defend themselves.”
To make matters worse, anti-Assad rebel forces have been defecting to ISIS since 2014. Fighters from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Islamic military groups joined forces with ISIS to help saturate large swaths of Syria and Iraq for the borderless caliphate.
The Christian element in Syria, reacting to an indifferent U.S., has had to make hard decisions. Faced with a choice between dictatorial rule by Assad or annihilation by ISIS-led rebels, the dwindling Christian community has opted for self-preservation as mass beheadings of Christians by Islamic fighters proliferate. Abu Fadi, the Christian community leader in Aleppo, gave a blunt assessment of the Christian plight.
“There is no question at all about whom we support: the government, of course. It is the only force protecting us from the jihadists and extremists.”
As the U.S. ends training rebels, an Inquisitr analysis probes how U.S. president Barack Obama is being upstaged by Russian president Vladimir Putin on the political chessboard. Obama’s move: a nuclear deal giving Iran $100 billion dollars that would be helpful in its alliances with Syria, Hezbollah, and Shia militias. Putin’s move: defending Assad with military strikes against ISIS, also a U.S. enemy. Result: Putin wins by checkmate.
While the U.S. ends its training of allied rebels, Syria, Russia, and even ISIS rack up political and strategic points.
[Photo by Handout/Getty Images]