WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Many Syrian rebels who participated in the US train-and-equip program to fight the Islamic State may have already defected to the terrorist group, taking their knowledge of training, tactics and US deployment plans with them, military and Middle East experts told Sputnik.
At a press briefing on Tuesday, US Department of Defense spokesperson Peter Cook acknowledged that many of the Syrian volunteers had disappeared and their location was currently unknown.
The Defense Department "would have concerns" if any of the rebels has joined such groups as the al-Nusra Front, the al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Cook said.
"The bad news is that the Pentagon is so incompetent that it lost track of its newly trained fighters, perhaps to unfriendly Syrian militant groups," Eland said. "The good news is that the Pentagon is so incompetent that it could only recruit 50 fighters in the first place to fight ISIS, thus making their loss almost insignificant."
Eland pointed out the US military were so desperate to get volunteers to sign up for the program that they would easily have missed Islamic State infiltrators.
"There are so few rebels who want to fight [ISIL] instead of the [Bashar] Assad regime that the United States has to take what it can get," he added.
The United States is vulnerable, Eland concluded, to "closet militants who sign up for the training and then abscond to jihadi groups."
Colonel Douglas Macgregor, director of US forces at Battle of 73 Easting in the 1991 Gulf War and an expert on military combat tactics, told Sputnik that the US military’s incompetence and naivety in training the Syrian volunteers had deep roots.
"The notion of ‘moderate’ Sunni Muslim Arabs obedient to Washington’s demands is an illusion," Macgregor said.
"What makes anyone think conditions in war-torn Mesopotamia are different?" he asked. "The ‘usual suspects’ in Washington, DC are chasing a mirage in a region at war with itself."
Matthew dal Santo, a Danish Research Council post-doctoral fellow at the Saxo Institute in the University of Copenhagen, told Sputnik that US policymakers would have probably breathed a sigh of relief if the missing volunteers had simply gone home.
Policymakers, dal Santo added, would even be content if the volunteers fraternized with Russians transporting aid to the Syrian government.
"[We can] only hope that they won't turn out to have ended up in Latakia province taking selfies with the Russians," he said.
Dal Santo previously served at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
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