As the Russian military intervenes directly to support the Syrian government, the U.S. will end a $500 million program to train and equip “moderate” Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State.

The Guardian reports:

The programme was the most visible element of US backing for Syrian opposition groups but it has already suffered embarrassing setbacks. Last month, it transpired that it had trained only four or five fighters inside Syria and that others had surrendered to rival groups and handed over the their weapons when they crossed the border from Turkey. Other covert programmes are run by the CIA.

A senior US Department of Defense official said there would no longer be any more recruiting of moderate Syrian rebels to go through training programmes in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. Instead, a much smaller training centre would be set up in Turkey, where a small group of “enablers” – mostly leaders of opposition groups – would be taught operational methods such as how to call in airstrikes, the paper reported. …

The scrapping of the programme caps a disastrous few weeks for US policy on Syria, already weakened by the perception that while Obama is prepared to tackle Isis, he will not fight the Assad regime head on but is instead holding out for a political solution to end the conflict.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are planning to step up arms supplies to Syrian rebel groups that are being targeted by Russian airstrikes, diplomats have told the Guardian. Those countries, as well as Syrians fighting Assad, argue overwhelmingly that the regime poses a far greater threat to the country than the jihadi group, which many see as a western fixation.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.


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