The Obama Administration’s early strategy for dealing with Daesh in Syria, also known as IS/Islamic State, was to train and equip so-called moderate rebels. This effort ended in failure after spending some $500 million.
"The previous $500 million program trained two classes of rebels, about 125 in total," Jason Ditz points out, writing for AntiWar.com. "The first class was captured almost immediately by rebels, and the second faction immediately handed all of its weapons to al-Qaeda. After that, the Pentagon 'suspended' the program."
Despite this embarrassment, the Pentagon is actively considering a revamped version of this strategy.
General Lloyd Austin, head of US Central Command, told Congress that the new program would include shorter training periods and a "focus on smaller numbers of people that we can train on specific skills." General Joseph Votel added that the Pentagon is working to "avoid the problem that we had last time."
Many lawmakers are not convinced. Legislators from both parties have expressed serious misgivings about reviving a strategy that has already proven ineffective.
"I’m not sure the train-and-assist thing is the right way to go," Tim Kaine, Democratic Senator from Virginia, told the Hill.
"If it’s going to be the same conditions that were available last time, no," said Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham when asked if he would support the initiative, according to the Hill.
Arizona Senator and Republican party member John McCain accused the Pentagon of "waffling," while Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, also a Republican, said it was "beyond belief to me" that the Obama administration would consider spending additional resources on what he called an "abject failure."
Others are concerned that the program will help Daesh.
"I think the train and equip program was so fundamentally broken that it likely can’t be salvaged," Democratic Senator from Connecticut Chris Murphy told the Hill. "We, with an enormous amount of oversight and lots of US personnel on the ground, still couldn’t stop the weapons from getting into the hands of the wrong people.
"I just don’t think anything has changed on that front."