Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced on Friday that the United States will abandon its failed attempts to train moderate Syrian rebels fighting ISIS militants and instead provide weapons and equipment to rebel leaders and their units in Syria. The U.S. announcement marked the effective end to a short-lived $580 million program to train and equip units of fighters at sites outside of Syria, after its disastrous launch this year fanned criticism of President Barack Obama’s war strategy.
The “equip” part of the program, which provided small arms, ammunition and vehicles, will be dramatically reduced to providing weapons to some 5,000 friendly moderate Syrian rebels to carry on the fight against both ISIS and presumably, the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The Pentagon said it would shift its focus away from training to providing weapons and other equipment to rebel groups whose leaders have passed a U.S. vetting process to ensure they are not linked to militant Islamist groups. Senior Obama administration officials claim the strategy to pull fighters out of Syria and train them and then return to face ISIS had failed because many of the rebel groups were more focused on fighting the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.
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