White House abandons strategy to train Syrian rebels

Four years into the Syrian civil war, the Obama Administration has scrapped its plan to establish and maintain a fighting force to defeat ISIS.

Describing the halt in training as an “operational pause,” officials involved in meetings were hopeful training of moderate groups could sustain in the future.

In acknowledging the defeat of the training mission, the White House announced plans to funnel remaining funds from a $500 million aid package designed to train and equip anti-ISIS irregulars to the myriad of existing opposition groups.

White House and Pentagon officials attributed the program’s failure largely due to rebel groups’ concentrating military efforts on defeating Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“We need to be flexible.  We need to be adaptive.  Is it best to take those guys out and put them through training, or to keep them on the line fighting and give them equipment and support?” said Brett McGurk, a close aide to Mr. Obama.  

Gutting the training program, however, does not signal the Administration’s retreat from defeating ISIS.  The White House indicated it would evaluate opposition groups known to U.S. military officials as part of an alternative strategy.

Fearful of U.S. assistance being acquired by groups hostile to their interests, the Pentagon appears to pin its hopes to erecting a coalition among Kurdish militia and moderate Sunni groups in northeast Syria.

This new strategy faces stiff challenges:  Numerous Arab groups in Syria are skeptical of Kurdish political intentions.

Some Arab groups fear an alignment with Kurdish rebels is inconsistent with their overarching aim to oust the Assad regime. An alliance would only serve Kurdish aspirations of forming their own state.

This retreat is the direct result of a rudderless Obama foreign policy.

Facing the bewildering consequences of a failed program, the Obama Administration shuttered a program which, if continued, would exacerbate its Middle Eastern problem rather than solving it.

By placing too high a premium on identifying trustworthy allies in the region, the Obama White House watched this ugly scenario unfold with losses to the tune of $500 million and absolutely nothing to show for it.

Viewed objectively, it is not too late to join the Russian campaign, temporarily align with the Assad regime until ISIS is defeated and bring about a sustainable peace in the Middle East.


[New York Times] [Photo courtesy Counterpsyops.com]