Monday, October 12, 2015

SYRIA - End to Rebel Training

"Pulling the plug on rebel training, what’s next for U.S. in Syria?" PBS NewsHour 10/9/2015


SUMMARY:  The Pentagon is canceling a program to train and equip moderate rebels fighting the Islamic State in Syria, after their efforts only produced a handful of fighters.  Judy Woodruff discusses the decision with former State Department officials P.J. Crowley and David Kramer.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  We take a closer look now with P.J. Crowley.  He’s a former assistant secretary of state for public affairs during the Obama administration.  He also had a 26-year career in the U.S. Air Force.  And David Kramer, former assistant secretary of state during the George W. Bush administration.

Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

DAVID KRAMER, Former U.S. State Dept. Official:  Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, P.J. Crowley, what do you think?  Is this a good thing, that this program to train the rebels in Syria is ending?

P.J. CROWLEY, Former U.S. State Dept. Official:  Well, it was a failure.

It was a good idea, but was so heavily structured to try to avoid — so you would have assistance going just to the good guys with the white hats and avoid assistance bleeding over to the guys with the murkier hats.  It was so heavily structured, it had very modest results.

I don’t think we’re surprised that this was not a program that was by itself going to tip the scales on the battlefield.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  David Kramer, how do you see it?

DAVID KRAMER:  I agree it was a failure and it should have been changed a long time ago.  My concern is the timing of the announcement.

It looks like we’re retreating in the face of this Russian advance, the Russian military intervention.  And it makes us look even weaker than we perhaps are.  The program was a failure.  It was just focused on the Islamic State.  It wasn’t designed to deal with the Assad regime and the Assad regime is really the main source behind all the problems we’re seeing in Syria.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  What the Pentagon is saying, they’re going to focus on arming these Kurdish rebels fighting ISIS in Northern Syria.  Is that a good substitute for this?

DAVID KRAMER:  This should have been done years ago.  The fact that this has taken so long, that it has produced so few results means that it is a failure.

But pulling the plug now, announcing it publicly, I would have preferred they just did it without making a big public announcement about this.  We just look like we’re running away from the Russians.

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