US resumes training of rebel fighters in Syria

Published April 2nd, 2016 - 08:32 GMT
The US attempted a program in 2015 to train and arm Syrian rebels. (AFP/Fadi Al Halabi)
The US attempted a program in 2015 to train and arm Syrian rebels. (AFP/Fadi Al Halabi)

The Pentagon has resumed a Syrian train and equip program with "dozens" of Syrian rebels, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition countering Daesh said Friday.

"Dozens of people are now being trained," Col. Steve Warren told Pentagon reporters via a videoconference from Baghdad. Warren declined to get into specifics of the program but described it as a "relatively small" scale program to see if it works.

In early March, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told Congress that the Pentagon has a plan to resume the program but lawmakers were skeptical to the proposal due to the failure of the earlier program.

The Defense Department last year allocated a $500 million fund to train a moderate Syrian group to fight Daesh.

But the program was suspended in October after it could only graduate around 150 fighters which cost the U.S. about $380 million.

According to Warren, the new program would not bring up units from the battle field as a whole, rather it is taking a few fighters from each unit to be trained and inserted back in.

Warren said that the unit leaders are not going to the training to stay on the ground to lead their forces on the battlefield.

"The hope is a few trained fighters will lift up the whole unit," Warren said.

"If you have a highly trained individual here, well, the man on his left and his right are going to benefit from his great training."

By Kasim Ileri


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