Army General Lloyd Austin, in charge of the anti-ISIS war effort from the U.S. Central Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that only “four or five” members of the U.S.-trained moderate rebel force are still fighting the Islamic State in Syria.
This is not really surprising news to anyone who has been following the humiliating disaster of President Obama’s “moderate Syrian rebel” strategy. It hs been known for some time that Obama’s force, regarded as a laughing stock across the Arab world, was wiped out almost immediately after they hit the ground. The top officers and nearly half of the fighters in the 54-man unit were kidnapped by al-Qaeda within a matter of weeks. The rest were killed, abducted, or driven from the field soon afterward.
Still, it remains shocking to hear the mission commander speak so frankly about its failure before Congress, especially since the Administration was recently accused of lying about the failure of its anti-ISIS efforts by members of the intelligence community.
Reinforcements for those four or five remaining U.S.-backed rebels will not be coming any time soon.
“Christine Wormuth, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, also told the Senate Armed Services Committee that there are currently between 100 and 120 fighters in a program that was slated to have trained 5,400 fighters in its first 12 months,” ABC News reported. “Austin told the panel that goal was not going to be met and that options are being explored about how to retool the program which was intended to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. So far, $42 million has been spent to develop the $500 million program which began training in April.”
A $500 million program that has, at best, five men currently deployed in the field, and 120 more in the pipeline.
“I’ve been a member of the committee for nearly 30 years, and I have never heard testimony like this. Never,” a flabbergasted Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the Armed Services committee chairman, said to General Austin. “I have never seen a hearing that is as divorced from the reality of every outside expert and what you are saying.”
The Daily Beast reports that even Democrat senators supportive of the Obama Administration were “taken aback by the missteps in the ongoing ISIS campaign,” while the Pentagon was filled with “long faces” and officers expressing shock at how badly the Armed Services hearing went.
Among the details divulged in testimony today was that the tiny U.S.-trained Syrian rebel force was divided four ways, becoming even easier pickings for al-Qaeda, by the end of the Ramadan holiday season. They split up to visit their families, some of which didn’t even live in Syria. Fighters visiting family in Turkey were unable to re-enter Syria and rejoin their unit when the Turks closed their border.
Another golden moment from the Armed Services hearing is related by the Daily Beast:
Austin suggested that the U.S. had special operators on the ground in Syria. His subordinates later had to take that back. In a statement afterward, CENTCOM said: ‘There are no U.S. military forces on the ground in Syria, nor have we conducted any U.S. military training of indigenous Syrian forces in Syria.’ Any training effort of fighters in Syria is happening outside the country, CENTCOM said.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have dealt the United States out of the Middle East. Russia is going to take over in Syria, cement Bashar Assad in power after he crossed Obama’s chemical-weapons “red line,” and end the Syrian civil war by putting down Assad’s most effective military opponents, the equally sinister al-Qaeda and ISIS. Assad is driving his non-military opponents out of the country and herding them into Europe, which is coming apart at the seams as the million-man migrant force rolls in.
The four or five remaining U.S.-trained rebels in Syria won’t make a lick of difference to those outcomes, and neither will the hundred or so reinforcements who might be coming up behind them. No action against Assad is possible now, and the Russians don’t really need a handful of mismanaged American proxy fighters getting in their way. Time and money were wasted, Obama’s ISIS strategy is an absolute disaster, and the only thing left to do is take appropriate action against the officials who doctored intelligence reports to keep the disaster hidden for this long.