How about instead of throwing this money down the proverbial crapper, we use it to potty-train all the children in the world. Or for refugee/humanitarian assistance in Syria. This failure (which we’ve also seen with “training” “our guys” in Iraq and Afghanistan) was inevitable, since nobody could even guess what “success” would look like. Shut this asinine program down now!
PoliticoPro: US has spent hundreds of millions for just 60 Syrian fighters
7/8/15 3:41 PM EDT
How much has the United States spent to train that whopping force of 60 Syrian rebels to take on the Islamic State? Well, according to basic math, about $4 million for each of them.
POLITICO has learned that of the $500 million requested last year for the “train-and-equip” program, roughly half has been spent.
“About half of the $500 million has been obligated thus far, mostly on equipment required to train the Syrian fighters,” said a congressional aide who was not authorized to speak publicly.
The fact that the Obama administration has spent so much on a program that has yielded so few vetted fighters makes clear just how difficult it is to find “moderate” Syrian rebels who can make it through the stringent screening process — and are willing to prioritize the fight against ISIL over the civil war against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The figure also provides new ammo for Republican critics of President Barack Obama’s strategy for dealing with ISIL, with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday blasting the president’s Syria plan as “delusional.”
McCain’s statement came after Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the Armed Services panel during a hearing that just 60 fighters had made it through the vetting process for the three-month-old Syria train-and-equip program — a number he conceded was “much smaller than we hoped for at this point.”
Another 7,000 volunteers, Carter said, were going through the screening process.
Last year, Congress approved $500 million for training program, with a goal of training about 3,000 vetted Syrian rebels this year, according to the Congressional Research Service.
There are many reasons why the number of vetted fighters is so low, including the Obama administration’s requirement that the fighters — who are being trained at sites in Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — agree to prioritize the fight against ISIL over the war against the Assad regime.
Administration officials are concerned about the aftermath if Assad were toppled without a political structure ready to replace him. But McCain and other Republicans say it’s imperative that the administration go after both the Syrian leader and ISIL.
“The administration is telling Syrians to forego fighting their greatest enemy, the Assad regime, which is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, and meanwhile refusing to protect these fighters from the terror of Assad’s barrel bombs,” McCain said in a statement. “That is why it is no small wonder that our train and equip program in Syria is so anemic.”
For his part, Carter predicted during Tuesday’s hearing that more allied fighters will be vetted and trained.
“As training progresses,” he said, “we are learning more about the opposition groups and building important relationships, which increases our ability to attract recruits and provides valuable intelligence for counter-ISIL operations.”
A separate, classified program to train Syrian rebels run by the CIA, reportedly to the tune of nearly $1 billion, has been underway for several years. Its effectiveness has also been called into question, leading some lawmakers to move to cut some of the secret funding.