U.S. military ends failed program to train Syrian rebels

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The Pentagon has decided to end its failed $500 million program to train and equip Syrian rebels, U.S. defense officials confirmed on Friday. The U.S. military will instead focus on providing rebel groups with equipment and weapons in their fight against the Islamic State.

The U.S. program, which was approved by the U.S. Congress last year, sought to train and equip “moderate” opposition forces in their fight against ISIS. But a year later, at a cost of $50 million for the training part of the program, it managed to put only “four or five” Syrian rebels onto the battlefield.

With that program now coming to an end, the U.S. military will seek to provide equipment packages and weapons to a select group of vetted rebel leaders and their units. “We will monitor the progress these groups make and provide them with air support as they take the fight to ISIL. This focus on equipping and enabling will allow us to reinforce the progress already made in countering ISIL in Syria,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said he remains convinced that a lasting defeat of the Islamic State group will depend on the success of local ground forces. “I believe the changes we are instituting today will, over time, increase the combat power of counter-ISIL forces in Syria and ultimately help our campaign achieve a lasting defeat of ISIL,” he said.

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