Baku. 19 March. REPORT.AZ/ President Barack Obama has signed off on a new plan to train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State, a move that comes just months after the Pentagon shut down a more ambitious train-and-equip program that burned through hundreds of millions of dollars with little to show for the effort.
Report informs citing the Russian media, the effort is part of a Pentagon push to capitalize on recent momentum in the long campaign in the Islamic State, which has been battered by coalition and Russian airstrikes, ground attacks by a Syrian army that has been refitted by Moscow, and ongoing assaults by U.S.-armed Kurdish, Yazidi, and Sunni Arab fighters.
The militants have lost about 22 percent of the land they once controlled in Iraq and Syria in recent months, and Washington wants to move on the group’s capital of Raqqa sooner rather than later. And with no significant influx of U.S. or allied ground troops on the way, Pentagon officials believe that training local forces to take the lead is the best way forward.
The new plan promises to be more narrowly focused than the previous one, which embarrassed the White House by producing virtually no fighters. The original $500 million training program began in the spring of 2015 with talk of fielding a force of about 5,000 rebels by the end of the year, but due to desertions and attacks by other rebel groups produced only about five trained fighters before being shut down in October.