1,000 Syrian rebels being trained by U.S. drop out of program

Nearly 1,000 Syrian rebels who have already been vetted and approved to take part in the U.S. training program are dropping out because the administration refuses to let them attack the Syrian army.

Daily Beast:

A centerpiece of the U.S. war plan against ISIS is in danger of collapsing. A key rebel commander and his men are ready to ready to pull out in frustration of the U.S. program to train a rebel army to beat back the terror group in Syria, The Daily Beast has learned.

The news comes as ISIS is marching on the suburbs of Aleppo, Syria's second-largest city. Rebels currently fighting the jihadists there told The Daily Beast that the U.S.-led coalition isn't even bothering to respond to their calls for airstrikes to stop the jihadist army.

Mustapha Sejari, one of the rebels already approved for the U.S. training program, told The Daily Beast that he and his 1,000 men are on the verge of withdrawing from the program. The issue: the American government's demand that the rebels can't use any of their newfound battlefield prowess or U.S.-provided weaponry against the army of Bashar al-Assad or any of its manifold proxies and allies, which include Iranian-built militias such as Lebanese Hezbollah. They must only fight ISIS, Washington insists.

“We submitted the names of 1,000 fighters for the program, but then we got this request to promise not to use any of our training against Assad,” Sejari, a founding member of the Revolutionary Command Council, said. “It was a Department of Defense liaison officer who relayed this condition to us orally, saying we’d have to sign a form. He told us, ‘We got this money from Congress for a program to fight ISIS only.’ This reason was not convincing for me. So we said no.”

Sejari's possible departure wouldn't just mean the loss of a few fighters for the anti-ISIS army the U.S. is trying to assemble. It could mean a fracturing of the entire program—a cornerstone of the Obama administration's plan to fight ISIS in Syria. (The Pentagon was unable to respond to requests to comment for this article.)

"The train and equip program will be structurally impaired for as long as those taking part in it are asked to target jihadists first and the regime second," Charlie Winter, an ISIS specialist at the London-based Quilliam Foundation, told The Daily Beast.

Of all the idiotic, self-defeating policies implemented by the Obama administration in Syria, this one wins the booby prize for being the most inexplicably wrongheaded of them all.  Most of the "moderate" rebels have already joined the Islamic State – largely because the U.S. refused to support them when they were in the ascendancy of the rebellion in 2012.  They joined up to overthrow President Assad, not act as surrogates for Obama's failed policy against ISIS.

It's clear that the president is going to have to alter his Syrian policy – for the third time.  It's admittedly a tightrope act, since the U.S. doesn't want to provoke Assad into firing on American planes if we were to arm and train rebels against the regime.  But perhaps it's time to throw Assad under the bus.  The war is going badly for him, and managing his defeat without handing all of Syria to the Islamic State is going to be a challenge that this administration has demonstrated it is not up to meeting.

Nearly 1,000 Syrian rebels who have already been vetted and approved to take part in the U.S. training program are dropping out because the administration refuses to let them attack the Syrian army.

Daily Beast:

A centerpiece of the U.S. war plan against ISIS is in danger of collapsing. A key rebel commander and his men are ready to ready to pull out in frustration of the U.S. program to train a rebel army to beat back the terror group in Syria, The Daily Beast has learned.

The news comes as ISIS is marching on the suburbs of Aleppo, Syria's second-largest city. Rebels currently fighting the jihadists there told The Daily Beast that the U.S.-led coalition isn't even bothering to respond to their calls for airstrikes to stop the jihadist army.

Mustapha Sejari, one of the rebels already approved for the U.S. training program, told The Daily Beast that he and his 1,000 men are on the verge of withdrawing from the program. The issue: the American government's demand that the rebels can't use any of their newfound battlefield prowess or U.S.-provided weaponry against the army of Bashar al-Assad or any of its manifold proxies and allies, which include Iranian-built militias such as Lebanese Hezbollah. They must only fight ISIS, Washington insists.

“We submitted the names of 1,000 fighters for the program, but then we got this request to promise not to use any of our training against Assad,” Sejari, a founding member of the Revolutionary Command Council, said. “It was a Department of Defense liaison officer who relayed this condition to us orally, saying we’d have to sign a form. He told us, ‘We got this money from Congress for a program to fight ISIS only.’ This reason was not convincing for me. So we said no.”

Sejari's possible departure wouldn't just mean the loss of a few fighters for the anti-ISIS army the U.S. is trying to assemble. It could mean a fracturing of the entire program—a cornerstone of the Obama administration's plan to fight ISIS in Syria. (The Pentagon was unable to respond to requests to comment for this article.)

"The train and equip program will be structurally impaired for as long as those taking part in it are asked to target jihadists first and the regime second," Charlie Winter, an ISIS specialist at the London-based Quilliam Foundation, told The Daily Beast.

Of all the idiotic, self-defeating policies implemented by the Obama administration in Syria, this one wins the booby prize for being the most inexplicably wrongheaded of them all.  Most of the "moderate" rebels have already joined the Islamic State – largely because the U.S. refused to support them when they were in the ascendancy of the rebellion in 2012.  They joined up to overthrow President Assad, not act as surrogates for Obama's failed policy against ISIS.

It's clear that the president is going to have to alter his Syrian policy – for the third time.  It's admittedly a tightrope act, since the U.S. doesn't want to provoke Assad into firing on American planes if we were to arm and train rebels against the regime.  But perhaps it's time to throw Assad under the bus.  The war is going badly for him, and managing his defeat without handing all of Syria to the Islamic State is going to be a challenge that this administration has demonstrated it is not up to meeting.