US Rethinks Rebel Training After Disastrous Launch
US-trained fighters killed, kidnapped within weeks
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2015 8:57 AM CDT
Syrian rebels attend a training session in Maaret Ikhwan near Idlib, Syria.    (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, File)
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(Newser) – The Pentagon plans a total revamp of its plan to train an army of moderate Syrian rebels after a disastrous start to the program. Officials had aimed to train thousands of fighters in the first year, but only a few dozen made it through the vetting process, and many of those first 54 graduates were killed and captured by the al-Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front within weeks of graduating the US program in July and joining the American-backed Division 30 group in Syria. In classified assessments, the military admits that the debacle showed that the rebels didn't receive enough training and support and were not sent to Syria in numbers big enough to make a difference, the New York Times reports.

Division 30 commanders tell the Times that the group's leader, Nadim Hassan, was seized by the Nusra Front along with seven others other soon after entering Syria to negotiate the release of kidnapped recruits. They are apparently still being held. US air support defeated the Nusra Front fighters when they attacked a Division 30 base the next day, but the surviving US-trained fighters are now scattered across the country. "As with any difficult endeavor, we expected setbacks and successes, and we must be realistic with those expectations," a spokesman for the US training task force tells the Times. "We knew this mission was going to be difficult from the very beginning." France, meanwhile, has launched reconnaissance flights over Syria and is considering its first airstrikes against ISIS in the country, the AP reports.