The moderate movement in Syria no longer exists, according to the International Business Times (IBT).
On March 14, IBT reported, “The moderate movement in Syria could be considered officially dead as of last week, when the last U.S.-backed rebel faction, Harakat Hazzm, disbanded, its members joining extremist groups such as the Nusra Front, the al Qaeda offshoot in the country.”
Some rebels have joined the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). Others linked up with the Levant Front, a group with ties to al Qaeda.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the group that the Obama administration backed in an effort to topple Bashar al-Assad and take one on Islamic extremist organizations, has also collapsed.
“There is no such thing as the Free Syrian Army,” Rami Jarrah, a Syrian activist and co-founder of Syrian news outlet ANA Press, told IBT. “People still use the term in Syria to make it seem like the rebels have some sort of structure. But there really isn’t.”
The U.S. has appropriated millions of dollars to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels.
Amid the collapse of the moderate Syrian opposition factions, IBTimes noted, “it is still unclear which rebel groups will receive U.S. weapons and training.”
“The merging of the last remaining moderate fighters and Islamic extremist groups has complicated the calculus for Washington,” added the report.
Moderate Syrian rebels have complained that they have not received enough equipment and funding from the U.S. to combat a group that generates $2 million per day in revenue — ISIS.
The Pentagon has taken over from the CIA the task of training and equipping the rebels in Syria.
Jordanian military bases are expected to serve as training camps, reported IBTimes.
In January, Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, confirmed that the U.S. would send 400 troops to train moderate Syrians outside of the country, adding that hundreds of foreign troops are expected to participate in the training operation.
The U.S. expects to train 5,000 rebels annually for three years.
According to the IBT report, the training program will focus on defeating Bashar al-Assad’s forces near Damascus.
However, that may change since the Obama administration has indicated that it is open to negotiating with Assad.
Members of the moderate Syrian group Harakat Hazzm, who received U.S. weapons, told International Business Times that they were set up to failure by Washington.
Syrian activist Jarrah suggested that the U.S. will have to accept the Nusra Front to prevent moderate rebels in Syria from joining ISIS.
“If there isn’t a serious approach to supporting the moderate rebels, identifying them, and accepting groups like al-Nusra, then they are all going to become ISIS,” said Jarrah.
The Nusra Front has picked up thousands of former Free Syrian Army fighters because it is able to pay them higher wages.
“It offers its soldiers hundreds of dollars a month in salary and food installments. The soldiers in the FSA did not receive any monthly stipend,” mentioned the IBTimes report.
“They feel like they are cheated, so they join ISIS,” Jarrah told IBT, adding, “This is the reason why the FSA was never successful. The countries that promised weapons haven’t provided them. They totally over exaggerated [their] support.”
The CIA began arming and equipping moderate Syrian fighters in 2013, but rebels have complained that it has not been enough, noted the report.
Hazzm rebels “received a total of about $6 million from the U.S. government in 2014, which works out to just $500,000 a month for a force consisting of 5,000 soldiers,” data obtained by IBTimes revealed.
Follow Edwin Mora on Twitter: @EdwinMora83