Facing another setback in its Syria policy, the US government has decided to abandon the building of a new Syrian rebel force. The force was being built to train moderate rebel forces to take on the Islamic State. It involved recruiting and vetting new rebels, pulling them out of Syria for training in Turkey or Jordan and re-inserting them as an infantry force into Syria.
Pentagon policy chief, Christine Wormuth says that the effort is being ‘paused’ and the new aim will be to equip, arm and support Kurdish, Arab and other rebel groups already fighting against the Islamic State group inside Syria. The Pentagon wants to make those groups more effective, fighting in combination with US air strikes. CIA runs a separate, covert programme that began in 2013 to arm, fund and train a moderate opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad, which has met with more success than the programme by the military, which trained rebels who were willing to take on the Islamic State, according to some top officials.
Pentagon has admitted that the strategy to pull fighters out of Syria, teach advanced combat skills and return them to face the Islamic State had simply not worked. One of the major reasons for it was that many of the rebel groups were more focused on fighting the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.
“The shift in strategy was doomed because the United States is unwilling to support rebels fighting against Mr Assad as well as against the Islamic State,” Senator John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said. “Inexplicable that the administration acknowledges this problem yet refuses to fix it,” added Mr McCain.
The White House and Defense Department officials say that the equipment to be provided to the rebel groups would not include anti-tank rockets or other high-end equipment that could eventually cause serious damage if they fall into the hands of groups that commit acts of terrorism against the United States or its allies.
The provision of equipment to the groups would be limited at first. But this provision could grow depending on a rebel group’s performance. Failure on the battlefield or loss of weapons that could fall into the hands of extremists could result in a cutoff of military equipment.
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