House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) is criticizing the Defense Department for the speed and size of its effort to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“I don’t think anybody’s pleased with the size or the pace or holds any illusions about how much difference this makes in the short-to-medium term,” Thornberry told reporters during a roundtable Tuesday.
But “because it’s been a significant issue in an important, chaotic place in the world, we’re going to continue to conduct a lot of oversight on how this goes,” he added.
The Pentagon announced last week that after months of delays, it had finally started the to train and equip the rebels — a major component of President Obama’s strategy to defeat ISIS — starting with around 90 fighters.
The training effort was scheduled to begin as early as March, but was held up as the U.S. and regional allies subjected volunteers to a rigorous screening process.
The initiative, which was supposed to train 5,000 fighters per year, has only attracted about 3,700, with about 400 of them ready to be trained, according to defense officials.