Obama’s Syrian Rebel Training Program: $385M Spent, 95 Active Fighters in Syria

REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

According to a final report from U.S. Central Command, issued as the third and final training class winds down, $385 million was spent on President Obama’s Syrian rebel training program to train 180 graduates, with only 95 of them currently active in Syria.

These numbers are relayed by The Hill, which notes that the program was touted as building a moderate Syrian rebel force of “15,000 over three years.”

“However, the program was effectively scrapped after the first class of 54 rebels was attacked by al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate the Nusra Front after returning to Syria from training sites, and some in the second class admitted to handing over equipment to them,” The Hill recalls. “Some of those forces from the first class were recovered — about 20 or so, according to the estimates, but the rest are no longer considered active. It’s unclear how many from which class are inside Syria.”

American officials appear not entirely sure what became of their equipment and ammunition. There were reports that the second wave of New Syrian Force troopers handed over some of their vehicles, and an unspecified quantity of their ammunition, to al-Qaeda forces in exchange for safe passage, mindful of what the Nusra Front did to their predecessors.

The Hill says some of the program’s ammunition was “airdropped to the Syrian Arab Coalition, an affiliation of about a dozen rebel groups that the coalition is now supporting with equipment to fight ISIS in northern Syria.” The completion rate of ammo drops into the turmoil of the Syrian civil war has been low so far.