When Congress approved $500 million to train a brand new force of “pro-US” Syrian rebels, they were promised the moon, with the Pentagon eyeing 3,000 fighters by year’s end and a path toward tens of thousands of loyal, heavily armed fighters.
The program was abandoned outright last month, with only 190 rebels ever trained, and only about half of them ever getting as far as Syria. Despite this, the Pentagon still managed to blow through most of the budget, capping out at $384 million, over $2 million per trainee.
The Pentagon insists that the training itself actually only cost $30,000 per trainee, but they blew through the rest of the money on weapons, vehicles, and ammunition. Of course, much of this wound up being immediately surrendered to al-Qaeda when the second class of trainees arrived in the country.
The first class of US trainees numbered 54, and were famously routed down to “four or five left.” The second class was between 70 and 75, though how many of them remained active after giving their arms to al-Qaeda was never clear.