"These are individuals, as opposed to units," U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren said. "What we did the first time is try to pull full units off the line and cycle them through training."
Washington (Talk Media News) – The U.S. military is training “dozens” of Syrian fighters to battle the Islamic State militant group, the Pentagon said Friday.
“These are individuals, as opposed to units,” U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren, said a Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State. “What we did the first time is try to pull full units off the line and cycle them through training. We realized that didn’t work.”
The Pentagon canceled the initial program in October after fielding 150 fighters at a cost of $384 million, far from the 3,000 fighter December objective. Warren said that today, only 100 of those fighters remain active.
“[We’ll] pull some individuals out of units, vet them, give them some training, give them some capability and then reinsert them back in the battle field,” Warren said. Other members of the unit would then learn and benefit from those trained, he said.
“If it works, we’ll do more,” he added. “If it doesn’t, we’ll shift again.”
“We learned people don’t want to come off the line for the training. Why? Because they’re fighting for their homes, their families, dedicated enemy, et cetera. What we learned it pulling a full unit off a line is problematic,” Warren said.
Warren said training will also apply greater cultural knowledge — “when to start the training, when not to train, how much leave to plan…personnel management.”
Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, former commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said last month that the Pentagon was looking to restart the program that went through two prior phases — one that recruited to form a force and another that looked to find capable forces to then train.
The first rendition specified that those in the program could not fight the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and only the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Critics said this requirement kept recruitment levels low. It does not appear that these fighters in training now will be instructed on who to fight.
Inside Syria, the U.S. is partnered with local actors, including members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The group operating in the country’s northern region consists of 80 percent Kurds, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, CENTCOM commander, has said.
These local forces, the Pentagon has said, are key because they must hold ground after it is taken from ISIS with U.S. assistance.