With less then 100 volunteers, the U.S. military programs that train and equip Syrian rebels are faltering. Questions are being raised as to whether the program can produce enough capable fighters to make a difference in the war against the ISIS.
The official U.S. goal is to train 5,4oo rebels per year, and officials revealed last week that they still hope to reach the 3,000 mark by the end of this year. The officials, though, privately acknowledged that the trend is moving in the wrong direction.
The White House said on June 26 2014 that it asked for $500 million from the Congress for a 3-year training and equipment program. The training was only started in May after months of recruiting and vetting volunteers.
The program is central to the U.S.-led effort to produce ground forces to combat ISIS without involving U.S. ground combat troops.
Syria hasn’t shown any initiative to build a resistance army; rather, its intent is limited to enable moderate opposition forces to defend their own towns against ISIS militants. The expectation from Iraq is much higher – the goal is to restore the Iraq-Syria border.
Among 6,000 volunteers, 1,500 have passed and await being allotted to training camps in other countries. The problem is, Syrians without any terrorist affiliations or physical disabilities haven’t been listed and recruited. Pentagon hasn’t revealed the exact number of trainees citing security concerns.
As of Friday, the number in the training camps has dropped below 100 and none has finished the program.
“We have set the bar very high on vetting,” said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.