Reports surfaced on Wednesday that latest graduates of the U.S. Coalition’s Syria Train and Equip Program have defected and has given U.S.-issued weapons to the al-Qaeda. One of the defectors is said to be the assigned commander for the Division 30 of the trained Syrian fighters, Anas Ibrahim Obaid.
According to a report from The Telegraph, the information was revealed by a member of al-Qaeda’s local division Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Fahd al-Tunis. He reportedly divulged the information about the defectors via his Twitter account.
“A strong slap for America… the new group from Division 30 that entered yesterday hands over all of its weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra after being granted safe passage.They handed over a very large amount of ammunition and medium weaponry and a number of pick-ups,” al-Tunis allegedly tweeted as reported by The Telegraph.
The Telegraph added that another Jabhat al-Nusra member, identified as Abu Khattab al-Maqdisi, identified Division 30’s commander, Obaid, as the one who had lured the U.S. coalition to train him with the ulterior motive of attaining weapons. “He promised to issue a statement… repudiate Division 30, the coalition, and those who trained him. And he also gave a large amount of weapons to Jabhat al-Nusra,” al-Maqdisi tweeted as quoted by The Telegraph.
On Wednesday, Pentagon denied the reports, saying that such information are false and have been sourced through Twitter from people claiming to be form the al-Nusra front.
“I just wanted to tell you that we believe those reports to be false. We have no information at all to suggest that’s true. All coalition-issued weapons and equipment are under the positive control of New Syrian Force fighters,” Pentagon spokesman, Navy Captain Jeff Davis, told reporters in a briefing on Wednesday.
Davis added that the Pentagon has already contacted the personnel who was reported to have defected, and there is no indication that there is truth to the claim of betrayal. Davis stressed that some of the photos posted on Twitter have been repurposed.
The U.S. Central Command that handled the training of the graduates also denied the reports. According to the Command, there has no indication that any of the new graduates has defected. “Additionally, all Coalition-issued weapons and equipment are under the positive control of NSF fighters,” the Command said in a statement.
A total of 70 graduates of the Coalition’s Syria Train and Equip Program have already returned to Syria over the weekend and are currently fighting the ISIS as New Syrian Forces. “While the NSF do not operate under the command and control of the Coalition, we will continue to support and enable these anti-ISIL forces as part of the campaign to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL,” the Command added.