(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
The United States has decided on refocusing the training of moderate Syrian rebels in the fight against Islamic State and instead will supply the rebellion with weapons and equipment on the battleground.
The Obama administration announced on Friday that the $580 million program that was aimed to train and equip Syrian rebels on sites outside of Syria will end and the Pentagon will focus on providing weapons and other equipment to rebel leaders that have been under background check to make sure that they are not allied with ISIS extremists.
The strategy imposed by President Barack Obama takes another turn after the Russian military intervention in the four year old Syrian civil war. Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the United Nations General Assembly, but despite Russian presence in the region the Islamic State has captured a couple of villages near the city of Aleppo.
According to Reuters, Washington’s announcement of providing further weapons comes in time when Moscow has been making air strikes on ISIS targets, as well as targets including Syrian rebel forces backed by the United States. The Under Secretary of Defense for Policy of the Pentagon Christine Wormuth said that the United States will provide “basic kinds of equipment” to the rebellion group that does not include “higher end” weapons like anti-tank rockets and anti-craft rockets. She stated that the Pentagon has a “pretty high confidence” that the Syrian rebels are allied with the U.S. and do not have an anti-American sentiment.
The program that was launched in May of this year with the goal of training 5,400 Syrian fighters did not end quite successfully, with only 60 rebels being trained. The No. 3 civilian official at the pentagon, Wormuth also stated that the program was not failed and said “I don’t think at all this was a case of poor execution. It was inherently a very, very complex mission.” The Obama administration reiterated this claim stating that the recruitment has faced struggle because it was authorized to fight ISIS only, instead of Assad.
According to Reuters, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that these changes will have a long term effect and stated that they will “overtime, increase the combat power of counter-ISIL forces in Syria.” It was also reported that the new strategy will focus on weapons, communication gear and ammunition which will be provided to thousands of fighters.
Barack Obama’s strategy of training and equipping Syrian rebels started last year due to the Islamic State offensive in northern Iraq. Obama has asked Congress to allow $500 million to support the Syrian insurgents, because that is the best way to counter ISIS and bring stability to the region.