Press TV: Only 4 or 5 US trained militants in Syria

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First published September 17, 2015, Press TV

US Central Command Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015.
US Central Command Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III testifies on Capitol Hill, Sept. 16, 2015

The chief of the US military campaign in Iraq and Syria has acknowledged that the $500 million Pentagon program to “train and equip” militants in Syria has so far yielded only “four or five” fighters.

The remarks by Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, head of US Central Command, before a Senate panel on Wednesday set off a wave of criticism from congressional lawmakers, who are wary of the Obama administration’s strategy towards the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group.

“The New Syrian Force program has gotten off to a slow start,” Gen. Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

With the program now in disarray, Pentagon officials are scrambling to revamp the strategy, The New York Times reported last week.

Military leaders are drawing up plans to put larger numbers of newly-trained militants in safer zones as well as providing them with more intelligence on the Daesh terrorists.

The training program is run by US Special Forces in Turkey and Jordan, and is separate from a similar covert program by the CIA.

The Pentagon initially said that it intended to train and arm about 5,400 militants a year as a proxy ground force against Daesh in Syria.

“We’re counting on our fingers and toes at this point, when we’d envisioned 5,400 [fighters] by the end of the year,” Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, said at the hearing.





Administration officials have said that more than 100 militants are currently being trained, a figure still far from the original goal.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, left, questions Gen. Austin on Wednesday
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, left, questions Gen. Austin on Wednesday

Critics say US-allied militants could turn their training and weapons against the Syrian government rather than Daesh because they see the terrorists as fighting a parallel war.

Gen. Austin told the senators that the training program was always meant to be a “complement” to the airstrike campaign the US is leading in Syria. “We continue to make progress across the battle-space in Iraq and Syria,” he claimed.

Committee Chairman Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, dismissed the testimony, saying he had never heard statements so “divorced from reality” in his 30 years on the panel.

McCain asked Gen. Austin if he would support a no-fly zone to ground the Syrian air force. “I would not recommend that at this point,” the general responded.

The senator also raised the idea of a buffer zone, but Austin said he “would not recommend a buffer zone at this point.”

The response prompted a sarcastic jab from McCain. “Basically, general, what you’re telling us is everything’s fine.”

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Jim Davis is the son of USMC MGySgt. Lesley Davis (Ret.) who passed away on April 24, 2006 from ALS caused by Agent Orange. His dad’s mission before he passed on was to insure all veterans, spouses, children and widows all received the benefits, medical care and attention and proper facilities from the VA. Because of the promise made to his dad to carry on the mission, in May 2006 Davis began as a one man show sending out 535 letters every single week to all members of Congress requesting and politely demanding the fulfill their promises made over the past decades to care for life those who wore the uniform and their families. Veterans-For-Change was born in August 2006 with a very small membership of 25 people composed of veterans, spouses, widows, family members and friends and to date continues to grow. Mission Statement for Veterans-For-Change A Veterans Advocacy and Assistance Organization. The purpose of Veterans-For-Change is to make major changes in the treatment and rights for all veterans. In benefits claims, appeals, medical care and treatment, VA Facilities, PTSD, Agent Orange, POW & MIA recoveries, diabetes, TBI and dioxins. Members combine their talents, information, ideas and suggestion and contribute to a monthly letter that’s sent to all 535 members of Congress expressing the concerns over various issues and offers possible solutions. This is in an effort to make change within the VA system, to streamline, expedite and insure claims are honored to the best possible rating, to insure all medical facilities are using the best equipment in the most modernized facilities with a properly trained and fully licensed and compassionate medical staff. Additionally we circulate petitions for various pieces of legislation to promote their being presented on the floor and voted on. We conduct research, develop ideas, solutions, and programs and do our best to make sure they’re put into action. We also provide guidance and assistance to veterans, spouses, their children and widows with their claims and appeals and the support of all veterans who seek assistance. We must guarantee the rights of every single veteran and gain the rights and benefits promised! To become a member please go to: Yahoo Group Veterans-For-Change
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