US military personnel have started training approximately 90 moderate Syrian rebels to better fight the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in the country.
US Defence Secretary Ash Carter said: "We hope this to be an ever-expanding programme once it proves itself, which I think it will.
"We’re figuring out what the best training is [and] what the best initial deployment is."
The programme is primarily focused on training and equipping the rebels to fight ISIL, also known as Islamic State, which means that the trainees will not engage the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Carter said the Pentagon would have some responsibility towards the trainees, if Assad’s forces undertook to engage them, but noted that the extent of such responsibility and the rules of engagement are yet to be decided.
In addtion to the training, participants will also receive compensation and small arms.
US Army Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman general Martin Dempsey said: "This programme is very complex. It won’t be easy, but I’d emphasise that it’s one part, one component, of a much broader approach."
He also stated that the Pentagon will consider the stability of the Assad regime as it moves forward with the training programme, and acknowledged that a destabilised regime would pose new challenges.
Only 400 of the nearly 4,000 fighters who volunteered for the programme have been selected for the programme after vetting process, and are being trained by about 450 coalition forces, including about 350 US soldiers, BBC News reported.
The Pentagon plans to train and equip more than 15,000 moderate Syrian opposition forces over at sites in Jordan, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, over the next three years.
Image: US Army Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman general Martin Dempsey answers a reporter’s questions as Defence Secretary Ash Carter listens during a press conference in the Pentagon. Photo: courtesy of DoD Photo by Glenn Fawcett.