US suspends Syria rebel training program
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US suspends Syria rebel training program

Pentagon says there is a ‘pause’ in new recruits, entire system aimed at fighting Islamic State now under review

Rebel fighters fire a heavy machine gun during clashes with Syrian pro-government forces on the front facing Deir al-Zoghb, a government-held area in the northwestern Idlib province, on August 31, 2015. (AFP Photo/Omar Haj Kadour)
Rebel fighters fire a heavy machine gun during clashes with Syrian pro-government forces on the front facing Deir al-Zoghb, a government-held area in the northwestern Idlib province, on August 31, 2015. (AFP Photo/Omar Haj Kadour)

The Pentagon said Tuesday it had suspended bringing moderate rebels from Syria to participate in its troubled train-and-equip program in Turkey and Jordan.

The training mission, aimed at readying rebels to fight Islamic State jihadists in Syria, has come under fire after it got off to a disastrous start, leaving defense officials scrambling to salvage some iteration of the $500 million program.

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said the entire program was “under review,” though US forces are still recruiting for the program.

“As we review the program, we have paused the actual movement of new recruits from Syria,” he said.

“We also continue to provide support for current forces on the ground and to train the cohorts currently in the program.”

The program’s first graduates were attacked earlier this year by Al-Qaeda’s local franchise, the Al-Nusra Front, and fell apart.

Then last week, the Pentagon admitted that the second group of around 70 fighters had given equipment and ammunition to Al-Nusra — purportedly in exchange for safe passage.

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