06:32 GMT23 October 2020
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    The location of Syrian rebels who participated in the US train-and-equip program to fight Islamic State militants is unclear, US Department of Defense spokesperson Peter Cook said in a briefing on Tuesday.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Cook explained the Defense Department "would have concerns" if any of the rebels had joined such groups as the al-Nusra Front, the al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.

    "We have concerns about the disposition of all these individuals, all these trainees," Cook said. "I can’t say with specificity where they have each ended up from this podium."

    The US program, designed to train and equip some 5,400 moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State, had produced only 54 opposition fighters to date, according to the Defense Department.

    At least a dozen of them have been captured, but were later released by the al-Nusra in July, while others have reportedly been killed or have vanished.

    Cook said the program did not lift off with the kind of efficiency the US government expected and consequently "hard questions are being asked" about it now.

    "We have lessons from that, continue to learn lessons from that and we are going to continue moving forward with that program," Cook added.

    The United States has been supporting what it calls "moderate" Syrian rebels with financial aid and supplies of small arms.

    Moreover, the United States has led a 62-nation coalition that has conducted airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria since September 2014. Albeit without the approval of the Syrian government.


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