US to start training Syrian opposition forces


Syrian rebel

The US Department of Defense (DoD) is set to start training Syrian opposition forces to fight Islamic State (IS) militants.

While the final number is still being worked out, Pentagon spokesman navy rear admiral John Kirby said the mission is likely to involve 1,000 US soldiers, including trainers and support personnel, and will start later this year

The forces will range from special operations to conventional, and are expected to receive orders in four to six weeks and perhaps as early as next week, Kirby added.

Expected to be conducted at a variety of sites in the region over several months, the training will focus on preparing Syrian troops to defend their own citizens and communities, and to help them work with political opposition leaders toward a political solution in the country.

Kirby said: "Part of this training is to help them develop leadership on their own."

US DOD spokeswoman commander Elissa Smith was quoted by ArmyTimes as saying that Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, have agreed to provide training grounds.

"Part of this training is to help them develop leadership on their own."

According to Kirby, the Syrian opposition forces to be trained will be carefully chosen through a vetting process that uses information and intelligence obtained from the area and partner nations in the region.

"There will be a significant vetting programme in place, multi-layered, and one that is implemented over the course of the training to make sure we're dealing with individuals and units that are trustworthy," Kirby added.

Approximately 5,000 fighters are expected to be produced by the Pentagon by the end of the year, and up to 15,000 Syrian opposition fighters could be trained in the coming years as the programme develops, as reported by Sputnik International.

IS controls a large swathe of territory in Iraq and Syria, and is currently being targeted by a US-led coalition comprising several European and Nato member states.


Image: A Syrian rebel fighter engaged in a shootout in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: courtesy of VOA.