The United States remains committed to its strategy of arming and aiding rebel groups on the ground in Syria with the hopes that they can help stop the Islamic State’s (IS) rise in the region.
President Obama has directed the Pentagon to provide ammo and “perhaps some weapons” to rebel fighters in Syria, the New York Times reports, citing unnamed officials from both the Pentagon and the White House.
The President hopes that some 3,000 to 5,000 U.S.-backed Arab fighters will join the 20,000+ Kurdish soldiers on the ground fighting against IS, while the United States continues its aerial campaign against the jihadi group.
Previously, the U.S. effort to recruit Arab ground forces to fight against jihadi groups in Syria has failed to garner much support, as the fighters appeared to be much more inclined to fight against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus. Some U.S.-trained fighters have even assisted the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Nusra Front, U.S. Central Command confirmed last week.
Nonetheless, President Obama remains insisted upon a strategy that relies on Arab fighters to take on the Islamic State.
“The top-line message that I want everybody to understand is, we are going to continue to go after ISIL. We are going to reach out to a moderate opposition,” he said, according to The Times.
This new endeavor would wholly focus on weakening the Islamic State, officials stated. The new strategy came to fruition last week during a National Security Council meeting, according to the report.
One of the main goals for the anti-IS strategy is for U.S. forces to assist Kurdish fighters in their attempt to shut off the pipeline for foreign fighters to link up arms with terror groups fighting in Syria. The U.S. will also dedicate air resources towards helping the Kurds defend Kobani, a Syria-Turkey border city, that has been the subject of hotly contested battles between IS and Kurdish forces.
The campaign to add Arab fighters into the mix will help garner the support of a Turkey that remains deeply distrustful of Kurdish fighters on the edge of their sovereign territory, the report added.
This newly minted Arab ground force will be called the Syrian Arab Coalition. They will be divided into 10 to 15 groups and U.S. officials hope that their numbers would total between 3,000 and 5,000 battle-ready foot soldiers, officials told The Times.
The Arab leaders have already been pre-screened thanks to Congress approving $500 million dollars in aid last year to Syrian rebels on the ground, the officials added.