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Obama Shifts Strategy on Training Syrian Rebels

“The Obama administration on Friday abandoned its efforts to build up a new rebel force inside Syria to combat the Islamic State,” according to The New York Times , “acknowledging the failure of its $500 million campaign to train thousands of fighters and announcing that it will instead use the money to provide ammunition and some weapons for groups already engaged in the battle.”  

“Defense Department training sites across the Middle East, including ones in Turkey and Jordan, will soon suspend almost all operations, officials said, in favor of a revamped program that briefly screens Arab rebel commanders of existing Syrian units before equipping them with much-needed ammunition and, potentially, small arms… The decision to scuttle a central piece of President Obama’s strategy for confronting extremists in Syria was made after mounting evidence that the training mission had resulted in no more than a handful of American-coached fighters.”  

“Senior officials at the White House and the Pentagon admitted that the strategy to pull fighters out of Syria, teach them advanced combat skills and return them to face the Islamic State had simply not worked, in part because many of the rebel groups were more focused on fighting the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad… Officials said the provision of equipment to the groups would be limited at first, but could grow depending on a rebel group’s performance. Failure on the battlefield or the loss of weapons that could fall into the hands of extremists could result in a cutoff of military equipment.”

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