Jarring Stat Shows Why US Is Dumping Syrian Training
Major overhaul in $500M strategy in the works
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 9, 2015 8:44 AM CDT
A Free Syrian Army fighter takes cover during fighting with the Syrian Army in Azaz, Syria.   (AP Photo/Virginie Nguyen Huang, File)

(Newser) – The White House is pulling the plug on a strategy to train Syrian rebels that by all accounts has been an expensive flop. The $500 million Pentagon program that began in December had been designed to put more than 5,000 fighters on the ground this year alone to fight the Islamic State. The actual number of fighting soldiers as of last month: "four or five," reports the New York Times. The AP notes the total number of soldiers to come out of the program is less than 80, and many of those were killed, captured, or took off. Not only that, but equipment such as pickup trucks and ammunition provided during the training has ended up in the hands of the al-Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front.

“We have been looking for now several weeks at ways to improve that program,” defense chief Ashton Carter said in London today, per the AP. "I wasn't satisfied with the early efforts in that regard." The revised strategy will apparently have a much smaller scope, reports the Times. For example, instead of several training centers scattered around various countries to train rank-and-file soldiers, one smaller center in Turkey will focus on training opposition leaders. The AP reports that the US also plans to work more closely with Kurdish allies to embed recruits in their units, rather than trying to create stand-alone forces.