‘4 or 5’ U.S.-trained Syrian rebels fighting ISIS
General Lloyd Austin, the commander of U.S. Central Command leading the war on ISIS, told Congress today that only "four or five" of the first 54 U.S.trained moderate Syrian fighters remain in the fight against ISIS.
Christine Wormuth, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, also told the Senate Armed Services Committee that there are currently between 100 and 120 fighters in a program that was slated to have trained 5,400 fighters in its first 12 months.
Austin told the panel that goal was not going to be met and that options are being explored about how to retool the program which was intended to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. So far, $42 million has been spent to develop the $500 million program which began training in April.
The first 54 graduates of the program were re-inserted into northern Syria in July and were quickly attacked by the Al Nusra Front, the dominant Islamist rebel group in Syria. Though the attack was repelled with U.S. airstrikes, it was characterized as a major setback for the viability of the progam. When Austin was asked how many trained fighters remained in the fight he responded "it's a small number," before adding "the ones that are in the fight, we're talking four or five."
A U.S. official has told ABC News that the initial group of 54 fighters was not effective from the time they re-entered Syria