The Obama administration is still publicly counting on a $500 million rebel army to beat ISIS in Syria. But privately, the Pentagon brass long ago moved past its own proxy force, The Daily Beast has learned. They’ve found another group to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State instead.
In recent weeks, the handful of fighters in the administration-backed rebel army—the so-called “New Syrian Force”—have been killed, kidnapped, or fallen off the proverbial radar. But the Pentagon maintained a brave face, even after these 54 fighters (out of what was supposed to be a total of 15,000) were decimated by Islamist attacks. “We continue to see volunteers want to be a part of this program,” Air Force Colonel Pat Ryder, a Defense Department spokesman, told reporters Friday.
It’s a public stance that has left many in the administration and in the defense establishment scratching their heads.
“I don’t understand why we are still training, other than to inoculate criticism. … [The administration] cannot admit it is a complete disaster,” said one senior defense adviser familiar with the U.S. approach. Even after the U.S.-trained fighters vanished, “there was no receptivity to new ideas.”