US halts training of rebels in Syria; Arms supply still on

RSTV Bureau

ObamaThe US has decided to halt its programme to train Syrian rebels to combat Islamic State militants. It will now only provide arms directly to existing rebel units that are already fighting the militants.

“We have had significant challenges associated with our training-and-equip program related to the counter ISIL mission and we’ve been looking at ways to address those deficiencies,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said on Friday.

Under the new policy, US will provide equipment packages and weapons to a select group of “vetted leaders and their units” in their fight against ISIL, Rhodes said.

“At the same time, we have seen opportunities emerge where we’ve been able to equip forces fighting ISIL on the ground in Syria and seen them make significant gains. So today’s announcement represents an ongoing process where we aim to learn from what works in our strategy and aim to make corrections where we see things that aren’t working,” he explained.

Until now the US was spending USD 580 million in the programme to train Syrian rebel groups. The controversial programme was opposed by a number of Congressmen.

Rhodes, however, clarified that the US is not ending Pentagon’s USD 580 million train-and-equip program that was initiated as part of the counter-ISIL effort last year.

“We are not ending that program. What we’re doing is we’re pausing the element that too fighters out of Syria and aimed to train them and then help them go back into the country….the program itself continues because, as I mentioned, for instance, a significant amount of resources dedicated to this program focus on the equipment that would be provided to opposition forces.  We will be using that equipment in different ways by trying to get it more directly into the hands of people who are in the fight.  So it’s an evolution in terms of how we apply those resources,” Rhodes clarified.

“The complete and utter failure of this poorly conceived programme was predictable from the start which is why I spoke out strongly against it and opposed it when it came before Congress last year. The Administration had no defined objectives, no effective strategy and no way to ensure that these fighters and the weapons, ammunition and equipment we provided them would not end up in the hands of ISIS, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra and other extremist groups who are our enemy,” alleged Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.

(With inputs from PTI)