Friday, July 31

American business as usual in MENA: Let's spend more billions screwing up

From Foreign Policy's Morning Brief, July 31:

Pentagon Training of Syrian Rebels Endures Major Setbacks

Top News: The al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front captured a top leader of a contingent of U.S.-trained Syrian rebels on Thursday, casting doubt on the Pentagon’s embattled effort to aid forces fighting against the Islamic State (IS).

Pentagon efforts to train moderate Syrian rebels in the fight against IS have faced stiff challenges since they began last year. The major obstacles are finding recruits and vetting them for their loyalties. 

So far, the United States has trained only 54 fighters. 

Their leader, a Syrian defector named Nadeem Hassan, was captured near the Turkish border on Thursday by the Nusra Front. He had originally managed to recruit some 1,200 fighters for the U.S. training program, but of them soon abandoned the effort. The remaining fighters are also reportedly poorly equipped and underfunded.

So far, similar U.S. training courses in Turkey and Jordan have produced about 60 fighters. 

This program also runs parallel to a CIA program for fighters taking on the forces of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Because they are working with Americans, both groups -- those fighting IS and Syria alike -- become targets.

Meanwhile, despite spending billions of dollars and killing over 10,000 IS fighters, U.S. intelligence agencies say it remains as strong as ever.

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