CENTCOM: Only '4 or 5' US-trained Syrian rebels left

A program that was supposed to train 5,000 Syrian rebels by the end of this year at a cost of $500 million is a "total failure," according to Senator Jeff Sessions.  That's because when CENTCOM commander General Lloyd Austin was asked about the status of the program to train rebels, he acknowledged that only "4 or 5" remained from the original 54 U.S.-trained fighters.  The rest have been killed, been taken hostage by ISIS, or simply fled.

Worse, only about 200 Syrian rebels are in the training program now – "astoundingly short" of the 5,000 promised by the administration by the end of the year.

ABC News:

The stunning admission from Austin came as defense officials scrambled separately to respond to allegations that they skewed intelligence assessments to give a rosier picture of conditions on the battlefield.

The Obama administration was already struggling to defend its military strategy to "destroy and degrade" the terrorist group with an air campaign and programs to train, assist and equip local forces. Lawmakers and Republican presidential candidates have assailed the administration, contending that it has had limited or no success in fighting the militants.

"We have to acknowledge this is a total failure," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said about the training. "I wish it weren't so, but that's the fact."

Austin told committee members that the U.S. was looking at better ways to deploy the Syrian forces, but he admitted the U.S. was not even close to reaching its goal of training 5,000-plus in the near term. He predicted it would take years to defeat IS and to restore stability in Iraq and Syria.

"OK. So we're counting on our fingers and toes at this point when we had envisioned 5,400 by the end of the year," lamented Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

Austin maintained the operation was making progress and said the military had always insisted the campaign would take time. The Pentagon also made it clear that U.S. military troops have done no training in Syria. Instead, U.S. special operations forces work with Syrian troops outside the country, including across the border in Iraq.

"We should expect that there will be occasional setbacks along the way, particularly in the early stages," he said. "And our partners, not us, are in the lead. It is taking a bit longer to get things done, but it must be this way if we are to achieve lasting and positive effects."

The general has a gift of understatement.  "Occassional setbacks"?  This isn't a "setback"; it's a disaster.  And how can he possibly claim that the Pentagon is "making progress" when they're short 95% of the goal? 

Also note we're leading from behind again, as Austin offers up the excuse that because our "partners" are taking the lead, the military can be excused for such incompetence.  Hogwash.

This shows we simply aren't serious about confronting the Islamic State in Syria or anywhere else.  The Obama administration is playing out the clock, hoping nothing catastrophic happens before 2016, when the president can dump his problems into the lap of his successor.

Judging by this failed program to train rebels, the president will be lucky if disaster can be avoided.

A program that was supposed to train 5,000 Syrian rebels by the end of this year at a cost of $500 million is a "total failure," according to Senator Jeff Sessions.  That's because when CENTCOM commander General Lloyd Austin was asked about the status of the program to train rebels, he acknowledged that only "4 or 5" remained from the original 54 U.S.-trained fighters.  The rest have been killed, been taken hostage by ISIS, or simply fled.

Worse, only about 200 Syrian rebels are in the training program now – "astoundingly short" of the 5,000 promised by the administration by the end of the year.

ABC News:

The stunning admission from Austin came as defense officials scrambled separately to respond to allegations that they skewed intelligence assessments to give a rosier picture of conditions on the battlefield.

The Obama administration was already struggling to defend its military strategy to "destroy and degrade" the terrorist group with an air campaign and programs to train, assist and equip local forces. Lawmakers and Republican presidential candidates have assailed the administration, contending that it has had limited or no success in fighting the militants.

"We have to acknowledge this is a total failure," Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said about the training. "I wish it weren't so, but that's the fact."

Austin told committee members that the U.S. was looking at better ways to deploy the Syrian forces, but he admitted the U.S. was not even close to reaching its goal of training 5,000-plus in the near term. He predicted it would take years to defeat IS and to restore stability in Iraq and Syria.

"OK. So we're counting on our fingers and toes at this point when we had envisioned 5,400 by the end of the year," lamented Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

Austin maintained the operation was making progress and said the military had always insisted the campaign would take time. The Pentagon also made it clear that U.S. military troops have done no training in Syria. Instead, U.S. special operations forces work with Syrian troops outside the country, including across the border in Iraq.

"We should expect that there will be occasional setbacks along the way, particularly in the early stages," he said. "And our partners, not us, are in the lead. It is taking a bit longer to get things done, but it must be this way if we are to achieve lasting and positive effects."

The general has a gift of understatement.  "Occassional setbacks"?  This isn't a "setback"; it's a disaster.  And how can he possibly claim that the Pentagon is "making progress" when they're short 95% of the goal? 

Also note we're leading from behind again, as Austin offers up the excuse that because our "partners" are taking the lead, the military can be excused for such incompetence.  Hogwash.

This shows we simply aren't serious about confronting the Islamic State in Syria or anywhere else.  The Obama administration is playing out the clock, hoping nothing catastrophic happens before 2016, when the president can dump his problems into the lap of his successor.

Judging by this failed program to train rebels, the president will be lucky if disaster can be avoided.