The Associated Press reports that Jordan has announced plans to help train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State. “The training is part of a regional effort also involving Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar as hosts of training sites. The U.S. Congress has passed legislation providing $500 million for training about 5,000 rebels over the next year,” writes the AP.
Few other details about the program were given, beyond its cost.
A Jordanian government spokesman is quoted saying the Syrians will be taught how to “defeat the terrorism that has been killing their sons and daughters.”
As the AP notes, Jordan grew much more enthusiastic about smashing ISIS after the terror state burned a captive Jordanian pilot alive in a cage. Jordanian ground troops have been amassing on the Iraqi borders, and they have reportedly been looking to buy American-made rocket launchers, useful in land battle.
As for the interest of Syrian rebels in tackling the Islamic State, such plans are always laid in the shadow of Bashar al-Assad, the dictator these rebels really want to rebel against. Their reluctance to become his de facto ally against his most effective military adversaries, who happen to be even more monstrous than he is, is understandable. It is not as if Assad will politely refuse to shoot at the rebels’s backs while they are busy fighting ISIS.
Just a few days ago, a representative from the moderate Syrian rebels told Reuters that his forces could not do battle with the Islamic State effectively if they had to worry about being “attacked from the rear by the regime,” most likely leading to “a long war of attrition rather than a war you can win.” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter worried that U.S. forces lacked legal authority to engage Syrian government forces in combat to protect the rebel flank.
Furthermore, Western powers have had their hearts broken by “moderate” Syrian groups that ended up swearing allegiance to ISIS or al-Qaeda. Jordan will likely have comparable difficulty finding white hats in a sea of bloody conflict.
However, Haaretz reported a few weeks ago that “moderate Syrian fighters in greater numbers than U.S. officials had expected are stepping forward to battle Islamic State militants,” according to retired General John Allen, White House envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition.