Washington-Authorities in the US hope to retain the Syrian opposition even though there is a ceasefire in place and despite their abysmal failure before.
Top US commander, General Lloyd Austin said that the Pentagon has requested permission from the Obama administration to restart the previously failed train-and-equip program for moderate Syrian opposition fighters for battles against ISIS, but on a smaller scale than a previous program that failed.
Washington previously struggled to define which fighters ‘deserved’ to get US funds and equipment, which often ended up in the hands of the terrorists.
“I’ve asked for permission to restart the effort by using a different approach,” commander of US Central Command, General Lloyd Austin, head of US forces in the Middle East, said in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
“The training would be shorter. But again, I think they would be able to greatly enable the forces once they’re reintroduced,” he said.
Austin explained that the different approach would focus this time on a smaller set of people to train others who would then “enable” larger groups allied with the US and its allies inside Syria.
President Obama picked General Joseph Votel, the current commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), to succeed General Lloyd Austin as the new head of US Central Command (CENTCOM) pending Senate approval. This was a genuine opportunity for Obama to change the strategic trajectory of US failures in the Middle East.
Votel, 57, is a former commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment and a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He headed the secretive Joint Special Operations Command before taking over U.S. Special Operations Command in 2014.
Army Lt. Gen. Tony Thomas has been nominated to replace Votel at Special Operations Command.
Moreover, Votel heads the only U.S. ground forces in Syria that depend on roughly 50 special operations troops who were deployed last year to work with local Syrian fighters trying to break the ISIS grip in Raqqa.
The Pentagon’s 500-million-dollar train-and-equip program got off to a disastrous start in Syria last July when members of the first round of 54 Syrian trainees were either killed or taken hostage by the Syrian affiliate terrorist groups, even before their fight against the ISIS started. Other remaining fighters reportedly fled.
Then, the Obama administration announced last October that it planned to halt its botched train-and-equip program and focus on supporting forces already engaged in the fighting against the ISIS.
The halt was recognition of the failure of US President Barack Obama’s flagship anti-ISIS training program, which initially seeks to recruit 5,400 Syrian rebels each year for three years.
During his hearing, Austin said that the new program would take account of lessons learned from the previous failed one.
“Part of that (the failure) was because we were taking- trying to take large numbers of people out of the fight and keep them out for training for long periods of time,” said Austin. “We’ve adjusted our approach.”