Pentagon hopes to 'resurrect a dead horse' by retraining Syrian opposition
The head of US Central Command General Lloyd Austin proposed to re-start training for Syria's so-called rebels. The program was canceled in October due to its failure. Washington has struggled to define which fighters deserve to get US funds and equipment, which often end up in the hands of terrorists.
RT: Why does the Pentagon want to train forces in Syria right now, if the ceasefire is generally holding?
Michael Maloof: Well, I think the Pentagon is trying to resurrect a dead horse. There is no way of telling who the good guys and the bad guys are in terms of the so-called opposition. I don’t know why the Pentagon wants to come back and resurrect something that was an abysmal failure much earlier. Because the problem still stands that you cannot actually identify who the bad guys really are.
If they think that this ceasefire is going to be a basis to get up sufficient troops to fight ISIS, I think once again they have a pipe dream, because these fighters primarily are out to overthrow [Bashar] Assad, the president of Syria. Their intention is not to go after ISIS.
Then the question is: where do you train them? Turkey is already so involved in trying to fight with the Kurds. Fighting ISIS is an after the fact for them. So the training and then the vetting process of who would be loyal to go after ISIS is another matter…
We spent $500 million, and only 5 trainees were successful and being fielded. They had 45 of them – 40 of them were killed in an ambush; 5 are left. First of all, it is a very bad expenditure of money. Number two, it shows that we once again they have a lack of strategy in going in on this thing, because it has been clearly demonstrated that these opposition forces cannot be trusted.
RT: What will be different about the program this time round to ensure we don't see the original failures, such as US weapons going to terrorists?
MM: There is no way to make it successful. They have already demonstrated that for almost a year that in trying to vet and recruit that they couldn’t do it. And you have Saudi Arabia now coming and spending even more money funneling money into Turkey to pay off these fighters and ISIS, to go after the Kurds and to go after Assad.
You’ve got to keep in mind where the money is coming. So where do you get the recruits? How do we vet them? How do we discover them? If we come up with a group that claims they are going to be anti-ISIS, how do we verify that? There is no way to do that. It is once again a lack of strategy on our part and we should be working more toward a ceasefire and trying to help the Kurds, because they are the main body of foot soldiers who are on the ground right now doing the heavy load of fighting. We need to have that kind of a strategy working in unison with our ally partners. I haven’t seen where the troops from Turkey or Saudi Arabia are. Are they going to go in? Are they going to fight ISIS? No, they are going to go in after Assad…
I think it was very embarrassing for the Pentagon officials, as it is up to the Hill and make this kind of a request. You could see that even the committee members had very pointed questions of verification, and the Pentagon witnesses couldn’t do that for the committee. So it is a non-starter.
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