U.S. Suspends Failed $500M Program to Train Syrian Rebels

REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

The Obama administration has thrown in the towel on a plan to spend $500 million on training “moderate” Syrian rebels to fight ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the regime of Bashar Assad.

CBS News reports the program has been quietly “suspended,” after weeks of other sources claiming it would be retooled, overhauled, reinvented, repurposed, rebooted, or various other euphemisms.

The program was beginning to draw bitter opposition from Democratsincluding Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who said this week’s revelations about the second wave handing its gear to al-Qaeda was “just the latest indictment of a program that was destined to fail at the start.” Murphy called for the program to be suspended on Monday.

Hillary Clinton has been criticizing President Obama’s Syria strategy as well, claiming that he ignored her advice to build a far more powerful “moderate” rebel force much earlier. “If we had been able to move in, to help organize and support those people on the ground, maybe we could’ve made a difference,” she claimed in an interview that aired on Monday.

The first wave of “New Syrian Force” fighters was ambushed by al-Qaeda and wiped out, with many of them killed, kidnapped, or MIA. No one at the Pentagon seems to know what happened to the second wave after they handed American vehicles and ammunition over to al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front in exchange for safe passage.

The Russians seem to have a pretty good idea what happened to that second wave, though. “First, they are armed and trained, and then they defect,” President Vladimir Putin said at the United Nations, as translated by CBS News.

Putin threw some even tougher punches at the mess Obama has made of the Middle East in his U.N. address. Here is the relevant section in its entirety:

It is now obvious that the power vacuum created in some countries of the Middle East and North Africa led to the emergence of anarchy areas. Those immediately started to be filled with extremists and terrorists.

Tens of thousands of militants are fighting under the banners of the so-called “Islamic State.” Its ranks include former Iraqi servicemen who were thrown out into the street after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Many recruits also come from Libya, a country whose statehood was destroyed as a gross violation of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.

And now the ranks of radicals are being joined by the members of the so-called “moderate” Syrian opposition supported by Western countries. First, they are armed and trained, and then they defect to the Islamic State.

As a point of order, the rumors out of Syria have President Obama’s second wave of rebels defecting to al-Qaeda or going rogue to fight ISIS on their own, not joining the Islamic State.

CBS ominously reports that Putin “seems to make no distinction between ISIS and other groups trying to overthrow the regime of Bashar al-Assad, some of which are supported by the U.S.” Even more ominously, Russian drones have been running pre-bombing surveillance missions against areas where Syrian rebels other than ISIS are based. That was probably the final nail in the New Syrian Force coffin, after Putin had a quiet word with President Obama at the U.N., and told him how things would be working in Syria from now on.

The New Syrian Force fiasco is a major Obama blunder, part and parcel of the disastrous foreign policy he tried to spin as a success at the United Nations. It was a $500 million plan to check off a box on a talking-point form, an expensive and dangerous indulgence of “Arab Spring” fairy-tale dreams about some mighty army of Syrian “moderates” that could not wait to throw Bashar Assad, ISIS, al-Qaeda, and their ilk out of the country and build a peaceful democracy.

It is something President Obama essentially had to do, or else the American people would have realized just how powerful ISIS and al-Qaeda have become on his watch. It turned into the biggest disaster since Jimmy Carter sent helicopters into the Iranian desert. Russia and others looking to redefine the Middle East will use this debacle not just to embarrass the United States, but to persuade anyone considering an alliance with America instead of Russia and Iran to reconsider.


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