A year-long training mission to create a new Syrian rebel force, which the US promptly named the New Syrian Force (NSF), has accomplished very little except spending hundreds of millions of dollars. The Pentagon is still doubling down on the effort, pledging today to provide military support to the rebels “no matter whom they come up against.”
That’s not a minor point, as they envision the NSF fighting ISIS, but the group has also run afoul of al-Qaeda, and could also conceivably end up clashing with the Syrian military, since they are at least nominally a “rebel” force.
It’s not a lot of guys for the US military to protect, at least, as the Pentagon only managed to train 54 rebels in the first place, 18 of them were reported captured by al-Qaeda last week, and at least one has been reported to have been killed in fighting with al-Qaeda.
That’s roughly a third of the force gone already, so the suggestion that the NSF is somehow going to be a game-changer is just silly. That’s not stopping the Pentagon from making what could be a monumental military commitment in trying to keep what’s left of this faction from getting overrun in short order.
What’s left of the force has fled into Kurdish territory in the Aleppo Province for the time being. The plan beyond that is unclear, as wherever the group goes it will be dramatically outnumbered, and the heavy US commitment is likely to paint a major target on their backs.
Al-Qaeda has been relatively pragmatic in Syria for the most part, allying with most other rebel factions at one point or other. They’ve openly ruled out doing so with the US-backed NSF, however, specifically because they are US backed.