US initiative to train 'Syrian moderates' revamped

US initiative to train 'Syrian moderates' revamped
Moderate Syrian rebels are once again being trained to fight Islamic State group militants by US forces - after a previous attempt went disastrously awry.
2 min read
02 April, 2016
Dozens of Syrian rebels have been trained by US special forces [Getty]
Dozens of Syrian rebels are being trained by the US military in a revamped train-and-equip programme after a previous attempt failed spectacularly, it has emerged.

The new initiative aims to work with a set number of members from each opposition group instead of entire rebel units fighting on the front lines as was the case with the previous effort.

"If you have a highly trained individual here, well, the man on his left and right are going to benefit from his great training," Baghdad-based US military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told Pentagon reporters.

"For the price of training one, you've got three who are better, and maybe even more than that. So, that's kind of what we're looking at doing here."

The Pentagon's initial $500 million project to train "moderate" opposition members was widely criticised when the US admitted its failure.

The programme failed to recruit adequate numbers due to the strict background checks to weed out possible extremists and many objecting to pledge to fight the IS group only - and not Syrian troops.

A group trained by the US was caught handing over ammunition and other gear to Syria's Al-Qaeda franchise, the Nusra Front.

The United States has since led an international coalition against Islamic State group militants in Iraq and Syria, where special operations personnel have trained ground forces and local militias while pounding IS targets with airstrikes.

The CIA has also been involved in training Syrian rebels, though the secretive agency has not officially provided any details of its efforts.

More than 270,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011, and millions more have fled their homes, triggering the world's worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.