Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Was Syrian Train-and-Equip Effort Always a 'Mission Impossible'?

Was Syrian Train-and-Equip Effort Always a 'Mission Impossible'?: A year after US President Barack Obama asked Congress for the authority to train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces to fight the Islamic State group, a senior general has acknowledged the $500 million program is in tatters.

The administration’s stated campaign to destroy the Islamic State group, known as ISIL or ISIS, has hinged on the Pentagon’s repeated assertions that local forces must push back the insurgent fighters to ensure long-term security in the region. The plan was to train 5,400 local Syrian rebels by the end of the year.

Gen. Lloyd Austin, chief of US Central Command, disclosed that there are no more than five US-trained Syrian fighters left, and acknowledged the program may be overhauled. Austin also confirmed the Pentagon inspector general is investigating his intelligence director amid whistleblower claims that intelligence assessments were altered to show a more positive picture of US progress.

The damaging revelations about the program — which has been straining to recruit nationalist rebels to fight against the Islamic State exclusively, and not the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — renewed questions about whether it was realistically conceived or should continue.