by Jason Ditz
Though an official announcement on the matter has not been made yet, reports are emerging that the Pentagon has suspended the “train and equip” program intended to create a new faction of “pro-US” Syrian rebels, which has been dubbed the New Syrian Forces (NSF).
Two classes of NSF fighters ever reached Syria during the program’s history. The first class of 54 fighters was overrun quickly, and “four or five” were confirmed to still be active earlier this month.The second class, estimated at 70-75 fighters, entered Syria ten days ago.
If the first class was a failure, the second class was embarrassingly so, with the group almost immediately surrendering its weapons and vehicles to al-Qaeda. Centcom today released further details about the chain of events leading to this surrender.
The new details make Centcom’s timeline look even worse on the matter. The NSF forces entered Syria on 9/18, and Centcom spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder claimed to have first gotten information on the arms surrender on Sunday 9/20. The first media reports to that effect emerged Tuesday, 9/22, and on Wednesday 9/23 Ryder himself loudly denied the media reports, accusing al-Qaeda of making the whole thing up even though he’d known for days it was true. The Pentagon finally admitted what happened on 9/25.
The US has faced heavy criticism for its $500 million training program, both for wasting huge amounts of money training almost no one, and for throwing large amounts of weaponry at the country even though their track record shows that those weapons overwhelmingly end up in the hands of Islamist factions.
Despite reports that the training itself has halted, Col. Ryder suggested about 50 more fighters, the sum total of classes three and four, might be sent to Syria anyhow.