18:08 GMT11 May 2021
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    The United States will continue its train-and-equip program aimed at assisting Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State, US State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner told journalists on Friday.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Earlier this week, the US Department of Defense acknowledged that the Obama administration's plan to defeat the Islamic State was not working.

    "Our support mostly through airstrikes is going to continue," Toner said. "We have not abandoned in any way our efforts to train-and-equip moderate Syrian opposition forces. That’s going to continue."

    In 2014, the US Congress approved $500 million to train and equip about 5,400 Syrian rebels by the end of 2015 to combat the Islamic State. However, the Defense Department recently admitted it had trained about 60 fighters and had lost contact with a majority of them.

    The Defense Department and US Central Command (CENTCOM), which directs US military forces and training programs to fight the Islamic State, are now facing growing criticism over revelations their efforts to train moderate opposition fighters have failed.

    On Wednesday, CENTCOM Commander General Lloyd Austin admitted to the US Senate Armed Services Committee that currently only four or five trained fighters were active against the Islamic State.

    "Admittedly, it [the train and equip program] has not lived up to expectations, we need to do better I think," Toner stated.

    However, he noted that the United States is now providing forces on the ground in Syria with "better air support for any operations they are carrying out against ISIL via base in Incirlik [in Turkey]."

    "We are going to continue those efforts and we are going to look to strengthen overall efforts going forward," Toner stated.


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    Daesh, combat training, moderate Syrian rebels, Syria, US
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