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    Syrian rebels attend a training session in Maaret Ikhwan, near Idlib, Syria in 2012.

    Pentagon Says New Effort to Train Syrian Rebels to Consider ‘Prior Lessons’

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    As the US $500 billion train-and-equip program aimed at training five thousand rebels in Syria spectacularly failed, the defense department is giving the effort another try, claiming that the lessons of the prior fiasco have been learned.

    The Pentagon aims to launch a program that will be “more narrowly focused” than the previous one that was shut down due to its ineffectiveness, Foreign Policy reported on Saturday. Last time, US military officials admitted the effort that cost the state $500 million hadn’t achieved any of its goals.

    The program kicked off in the Spring of 2015 and aimed at preparing five thousand rebels by the end of the year. As a result of mass desertion in the ranks of prospective Syrian rebels and attacks from militant factions, only a handful of trainees left in the end.

    In an address to the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of US armed forces in the Middle East, revealed that only five fighters were trained in the end.

    Christine Wormuth, undersecretary of Defense for policy, admitted at the time that the “program [was] much smaller than we hoped,” saying between 100 and 120 had been training under the program.

    Republican Senator John McCain came clear about the program in September 2015, claiming that the Pentagon was “divorced from reality.”

    Since then, American forces have continued the training of individual Syrian opposition commanders. Moreover, 50 more US Special Forces troops remain in Syria for assisting local forces in the fight against Daesh.

    According to Foreign Policy, unlike the first program, the new effort will focus on training “very small groups” of rebels outside of Syria. They are expected to be taught infantry tactics and brought back to ground in their homeland.

    "As we reintroduce those people back into the fight, they will be able to enable the larger groups that they're a part of," Austin said. "The training would be shorter. But again, I think they would be able to greatly enable the forces once they're reintroduced."

    “This is part of our adjustments to the train-and-equip program built on prior lessons learned,” said Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition in Baghdad.

    It is still unknown how much the new program could cost and how many fighters it aims to train. The date of the launch of the program is yet to be revealed.

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    Tags:
    train and equip, Syrian conflict, Senate Committee on Armed Services (SCAS), Pentagon, Lloyd Austin, Syria, United States
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