WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Syrian rebels in the US train-and-equip program must take a pledge to fight the Islamic State and not the Syrian regime, in part because the United States does not have the legal authority to conduct airstrikes on the Syrian military if the rebels come under attack, the nominee to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, stated on Thursday.
“We do not have the authority to take action against [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s forces so unless that policy would change then that pledge [to only fight Islamic State] would be required,” Dunford told a US Senate confirmation hearing.
Dunford noted, however, that if the United States sends rebels into Syria, it should provide “a full range of capability for them to be successful.”
The United States currently has only 60 Syrian rebels in the train and equip program.
Since the beginning of the train-and-equip program three months ago, the United States has been working to screen and vet about 7,000 Syrian volunteers.
As part of the vetting process the United States is working to ensure Syrian volunteers pass counterintelligence screening, meet standards regarding the law of armed conflict, and are committed to fighting the Islamic State.
According to media reports, several rebel groups have shunned the program because it does not focus on overthrowing the Assad government.