A US military programme which began in May to train Syrian rebels to combat Islamist militants in the country has been heavily criticised and on Wednesday a top US general appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee. He revealed the initial training targets for the programme would be unreachable.
Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer questioned General Lloyd Austin.
“There were only about 60 Syrian fighters that had been trained in our Train and Equip Program and reinserted. Can you tell us what the total number of trained fighters remains?”
He replied: “It’s a small number. The ones that are in the fight is we’re talking, four or five.”
“Is it still the goal to have about 12,000 of them there?” she continued.
“Well, we certainly at the pace we’re going, we won’t reach the goal that we had initially established for ourselves,” the general responded.
The general acknowledged the US military is now conducting a broad review of the programme. But for one senator – a Vietnam war veteran – it’s too late.
“This is an abject failure. The refugees are the result of it,” opined Senator John McCain.
It’s understood the first class of less than 60 fighters came under attack from al Qaeda’s Syria wing, Nusra Front on their battlefield debut. Some were captured and killed others scattered.
The President Barack Obama initiative was seen as a way to have local partners combat the Islamist militants and keep US troops off the front lines.