Only 4 or 5 U.S.-trained Syrian Rebels Still Fighting, General Admits

At current, slower-than-expected pace, initial training targets of 5,400 fighters a year would be unreachable, U.S. General Lloyd Austin tells Senate.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
In this Dec. 17, 2012, file photo, Syrian rebels attend a training session in Maaret Ikhwan near Idlib, Syria.
In this Dec. 17, 2012, file photo, Syrian rebels attend a training session in Maaret Ikhwan near Idlib, Syria. Credit: AP

REUTERS - Only four or five U.S.-trained Syrian rebels were still fighting in Syria, a top general told Congress on Wednesday, a stark admission of setbacks to a fledgling military program that critics have already pronounced a failure. 

The U.S. military began training in May for up to 5,400 fighters a year, in what was seen as a test of President Barack Obama's strategy of having local partners combat Islamist militants and keep U.S. troops off the front lines. 

But the program was challenged from the start, with the first class of less than 60 fighters coming under attack from al Qaida's Syria wing, Nusra Front, in their battlefield debut. Some were captured and killed while others scattered. 

U.S. General Lloyd Austin, the head of the U.S. military's Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that at the current, slower-than-expected pace, the initial training targets would be unreachable. 

Austin acknowledged the program was under review but he said the numbers of Syrian fighters would grow over time. 

Asked how many fighters were still in Syria, Austin said: "It's a small number. The ones that are in the fight ... we're talking four or five." 

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth told the committee that only 100 to 120 Syrian fighters were in training. 

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments