June 22, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) The U.S. military confirmed Monday that it is paying moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State. The fighters are being paid between $250-$400 per month in a plan the Pentagon expects to yield 3,000 fighters by the end of the year. The effort appears to be part of a $500 million Pentagon program that sent 400 U.S. troops to the region to train rebel forces in January.
According to Navy Commander and Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith, more than 6,000 individuals have signed up for the program. 4,000 await vetting and approval. Training is conducted in neighboring countries, including Jordan. Smith said the Pentagon is aiming for 5,400 Syrian troops by the program’s one-year anniversary, but stressed that “[f]or operational security, we will not announce when coalition-trained Syrian opposition forces enter into Syria.”
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who has called the project “critical,” noted difficulties in amassing trustworthy and capable fighters to combat the Islamic State. As USA Today summarized, the program “was delayed by several months because finding and vetting fighters who will adhere to laws of war and pledge to conduct themselves properly has proved difficult.”
Similarly, efforts to recruit fighters in Iraq yielded disappointing results. The Pentagon hoped to recruit 24,000 new Iraqis by the fall but will come up short with only 9,000 signed up to train.
The United States government has run into difficulties arming and training rebels in the past. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal described the CIA’s failed attempted to arm moderate rebels in Syria. Due to a lack of sufficient weaponry and U.S. refusals to provide more ammunition to fight al-Qaeda forces, entire units of U.S. trained rebels “changed sides by joining forces with Islamist brigades, quit the fight or [went] missing.”
Similar programs have also gone awry. U.S.-trained Iraqi forced notoriously cowered in the face of ISIS soldiers in Mosul, abandoning their posts. In the midst of the conflict, weapons supplied to “U.S. allies” have wound up in the hands of ISIS due to similar Iraqi retreats.
Last week, Carter further acknowledged the difficulties of training foreign troops. “Our train-and-equip mission in Syria has been challenging…But the requirement for a capable and motivated counter-ISIL ground force there also means we must persist in our efforts,” he said.
The Pentagon plans that the newly-trained forces will eventually become ”viable opposition to the regime of President Bashar Assad,” the ruler the United States has consistently advocated be removed from power.
Though the Islamic State is a brutal regime guilty of unconscionable human rights abuses, history makes it difficult to support yet another Western military scheme that claims to support peace while waging war with tenuous programs demonstrated to be prone to failure.
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