Friday, June 19, 2015

US training fewer than 200 Syrian rebels | TheHill

US training fewer than 200 Syrian rebels | TheHill: The United States is currently training fewer than 200 Syrian rebels to fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Pentagon said Thursday.

Ninety rebels began training last month, but so far none have completed training, said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren.

Pentagon officials acknowledge the program has gotten off to a slow start, but say they still hope to train up to 3,000 fighters by the end of the year, and 5,400 by next May.
"We are more interested in training the right recruits, so we are focused more on quality than quantity at the moment," Pentagon spokeswoman Cmdr. Elissa Smith said.

Warren said so far there have been about 6,000 volunteers for the training, and that about 4,000 of those are waiting to begin the vetting process.

Of the remaining 2,000, more than 1,500 have completed pre-screening and are awaiting training, Warren said. Between "one and 200" are in training, and some did not make it through the vetting process, he said.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter acknowledged on Wednesday that the current number was below capacity.

"We have enough training sites and so forth for them; for now we don't have enough trainees to fill them," he told lawmakers at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

Congress approved $500 million in December for the program, which was expected to train about 5,000 rebels in about one year's time.

However, training began later than expected, after getting permission from four different countries to stand up the training sites.

Carter said finding the right recruits has been difficult.