WASHINGTON – We were told that the Obama administration, while not going overboard on this, was committed to degrading and ultimately destroying ISIL in Iraq and Syria. We were told that there was a serious effort to support the Syrian opposition that is trying to fight against both the Assad regime and ISIL in Syria.
ISIL still in control
Well, not so. We know that there are very few US bombing missions. We know that ISIL is still very much in control of the territories it seized first in Syria and then in Iraq.
But now we also know that the announced program to train up to 5,000 Syrian opposition fighters, at a cost of approximately $ 500 million, is not progressing as planned –and this is a really generous way of putting it. A more accurate way of evaluating the US effort would be “a pitiful joke”.
4 or 5 Syrian fighters
And we heard the sad truth from a high US military authority: General Lloyd Austin, head of CENTCOM, the Central Command that covers the entire Middle East. General Austin is in charge of the entire US military effort against ISIL.
During a recent testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Austin, (not looking too happy), admitted that the effort to train the Syrian fighters is behind schedule.
Indeed, while the Pentagon planned to train about 5,000 rebels, about 100 to 120 are currently in training. (This is not even 3% of the announced goal). And how many trainees actually joined the fight? Well, about 4 or 5. Yes, this is not an error. It is indeed “4 or 5”, not 40 or 50. Not 400 or 500.
There may be a good explanation for this grotesque failure. I really hope there is one. Otherwise, I can only conclude that the Obama administration never wanted to engage in this Syria-Iraq- ISIL conflict. And may be for good reasons.
But then it would have been be better if it had said so, openly and publicly. To announce ambitious goals about training Syrian fighters and then fail to even initiate the effort invites ridicule.