The Pentagon’s train and equip program has produced just 54 “moderate” rebels in Syria at a cost of $41 million, according to a report.
The rebels, who have been “painstakingly vetted” and “equipped with fancy new weapons,” make up a group known as the New Syria Force, a key part of the US campaign against Daesh (ISIL), CNN reports.
A member of the group, which is fiercely opposed to the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has appealed to the United States to speed up the training program.
“Nearly 17,000 Syrian men want to join, but the training is very slow,” Abu Iskander said in an interview with CNN. “We need it to be faster -- 30 days instead of 45 days. More trainees -- for example, our training in Jordan did 85 -- we should have been 500 there and another 500 in Turkey.”
Another 70 rebels are due to complete their courses shortly, according to the report.
The Pentagon had initially announced that it intended to produce 5,400 rebels a year as a proxy ground force to fight against both ISIL [Daesh] and the Assad government.
Abu Iskander said much of their work in Syria involves providing information on targets for US airstrikes.
“I go to the front line against ISIS, and I give locations for the warplanes to bomb,” he told CNN. “We have developed communication devices using satellites that can target from any place on the front line whether we see it or not.”
“There are daily drone flights and they're in the sky as I talk to you now. I speak to the Americans every hour, a total of four hours a day,” the fighter added.
At least five newly trained rebel were recently captured by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, reinforcing the skepticism that the US program is unsustainable.
Editor's note: This article has been edited from the source material