After a solid year of hyping the Pentagon-trained rebel forces for Syria, what happened has become an embarrassment of epic proportions. The group, dubbed either “Division 30” or the “New Syria Forces,” consisted of 54 men, who were quickly routed by al-Qaeda, before later making a deal with them, praising them as “holy warriors” and talking up jihad against the Assad government.
They were created to fight ISIS, but have thus far never even gotten close to ISIS territory. Now, diplomats say the second round of US-trained rebels will be deploying to Syria in a matter of weeks to join what is left of the first group.
There is a notable lack of detail on this new deployment, and the Pentagon does not seem to be trying to draw attention to it like they were initially. In particular, there is no indication what the size of this second group will be. If they are as small as that last force, however, it seems hardly worth the bother.
The US Congress funded this training scheme to the tune of about $500 million, though officials have suggested only about a tenth of that has been spent, with major problems finding people who are both willing to train and able to be vetted as not terrorists.
The most recent comments from the Pentagon suggested that they hoped to have as many as 1,000 fighters on the ground by year’s end, but these projections have often been dramatically over-optimistic in the past, as this was initially supposed to be a faction of tens of thousands of fighters by then, not 54.