The already failed $500m plan to train and arm 5,000 “moderate” Syrian rebels has taken another critical blow as 30 members of the most recent graduating class surrendered and handed all weapons and equipment over to al Qaeda’s Nusra Front immediately after crossing the border from Turkey into Syria.
Last month, a similar instance occurred in which the Turkish government tipped off al Qaeda to the whereabouts of the previous “train and equip” unit, and a group of about 70 of them were ambushed just after crossing the border and were captured or killed, according to reports.
As previously mentioned, the “train and equip” plan has been an extremely embarrassing failure that the White House and Pentagon are all trying to pass the blame on.
However, there could be more afoot here than meets the eye. It’s possible, and just speculation on my part, that these U.S. trained forces are supposed to be scooped up and disseminated across jihad groups. This stands to benefit not only the Pentagon’s short term goals of toppling Assad and containing ISIS, but the trained militants would also greatly bolster the forces of Nusra and Ahrar ash Shaam, who share similar short term goals as the West. A mutually beneficial relationship may be at work, whereby the West launders trained rebels into shady insurgent groups to do their bidding, but swallows their pride and takes a public black eye for seemingly failed foreign policy.
Sending a group of 30 freshly trained fighters into no-man’s land with some weapons and equipment to act as a single force would be a pretty futile endeavor. Yet, if you take those 30, all with specialized training, and spread them across the battlefield to units (for lack of a better word) that already have a foothold on their specific sectors, intelligence developed, and relationships formed with the local elders and religious leaders, these U.S. trained forces stand to make a real difference in the fight for Syria.