The U.S. general in charge of Middle East operations admitted Wednesday that only “four or five” U.S.-trained Syrians are fighting against Islamic State.
An early estimate of American expenditures put the cost of training and equipping each individual rebel at around $4 million per. In the light of Austin’s new admission, the math now works out to closer to $20 million for each fighter.
Success has consistently evaded the U.S. effort to train rebels for battle against both Syrian President Bashar Assad and the jihadis of Islamic State. The originally circulated figure of recruits was around 60 — some of whom promptly were captured by an al-Qaida affiliate, allegedly acting on the basis of Turkish intelligence. (RELATED: Report: Turkey, The New Anti-ISIS Ally, Betrayed US-Backed Syrian Rebels)
The U.S. primary difficulty in executing the program has been finding fighters who pass vetting by American authorities — and lack any ties to the Islamist groups which have come to predominate in the country’s anti-Assad resistance. Even among groups combating Islamic State, al-Qaida’s franchise Jabhat al-Nusra is one of the most influential forces.
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