US-Trained Syrian Rebels Down to “Four or Five”
“No more than five U.S.-trained Syrian rebels are fighting the Islamic State, astoundingly short of the envisioned 5,000, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East told angry lawmakers on Wednesday,” according to AP .
“After the first 54 fighters were sent in to fight in July, a Syrian affiliate of al-Qaida attacked the group, killing several and taking others hostage while many fled. Asked how many remain, Gen. Lloyd Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee, ‘It’s a small number. … We’re talking four or five.’ Congress has approved $500 million to train Syrian fighters, and officials have said fewer than 200 are going through training now.”
“One of the problems has been that many Syrian fighters want training and equipment to fight the government forces of President Bashar Assad, but the U.S. program is limited to rebels who agree to only battle the militants… Christine Wormuth, undersecretary of defense for policy, told senators that the U.S. was looking at how to speed up the recruiting and screening processes. It has taken months to identify and screen Syrian rebels, and many who are willing to fight are under 18 or have medical issues.”