The US says it plans to overhaul its much criticised programme to train “moderate” Syrian rebels battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), saying it would provide arms and equipment to established groups already fighting the ISIL group. Aljazeera reports:
“I remain convinced that a lasting defeat of ISIL in Syria will depend in part on the success of local, motivated, and capable ground forces,” US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement on Friday. “I believe the changes we are instituting today will, over time, increase the combat power of counter-ISIL forces in Syria and ultimately help our campaign achieve a lasting defeat of ISIL.”
The announcement marked the effective end to a short-lived multimillion-dollar programme to train and equip units of fighters at sites outside of Syria, after that programme’s disastrous launch this year fanned criticism of President Barack Obama’s war strategy.
“Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is now directing the Department of Defense to provide equipment packages and weapons to a select group of vetted leaders and their units so that over time they can make a concerted push into territory still controlled by ISIL,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement, using an acronym for Islamic State.