US begins training anti-ISIS fighters in Jordan - report

Reuters / Muhammad Hamed
The United States has started training Syrian opposition fighters in Jordan who will be deployed to fight in the multinational military effort against the so-called Islamic State, according to reports.

Besides Jordan, the exercises will begin soon in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, the Associated Press reported Thursday, citing US officials

According to AP, more than 3,750 Syrian fighters have signed up for US-led training, and roughly one tenth have already been vetted, unnamed American officials are cited as saying. Exercises could begin as soon as this week in Turkey, CNN added, and 400 military trainers from the US have already arrived either there or in Jordan to begin preparations.

While the White House maintains that US troops will not engage on the ground with ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria, legislation authorized by Congress last September set aside $500 million requested by President Barack Obama to go towards training about 5,000 Syrian fighters over the course of the year to go up against the group, with more troops being equipped through 2017.

When the measure passed in the fall, Obama thanked lawmakers for the "speed and seriousness" demonstrated in approaching the issue and praised the "strong bipartisan support in Congress.” According to AP, the US has since reviewed the volunteer fighters to make sure officials wouldn’t be training extremists.

Meanwhile, a Pentagon spending bill currently being considered in the House of Representatives calls for putting another $715 million towards aiding anti-ISIS efforts during the next fiscal year. If approved in its current form, the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act would allocate funds for training Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Sunni tribal security forces if Baghdad falls short of Washington’s demands with regards to ethnic and sectarian minorities being represented in the new Iraqi government.

According to AP, members of moderate Syrian opposition groups will be trained in basic military equipment and skills, “including firearms, communications and command and control abilities,” by coalition forces led by the US.