The Pentagon has announced that it expects to train 5,000 Syrian rebels per year as part of President Obama’s new campaign to battle Islamic State militants.
Details of the administration’s $500 million plan to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State began to surface Friday when Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby outlined the goals that U.S. military planners expected to achieve.
That goal includes training and equipping the Syrian rebels in a foreign country over the course of about a year, according to Rear Adm. Kirby.
Mr. Obama had long resisted called to arm and train the rebels, pro-U.S. moderates who had been battling the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, belittling their ability to take on the government and to control the most extremist elements of the rebel coalition.
The U.S. military has already located a partner nation willing to host the training force, Rear Adm. Kirby said. Saudi Arabia has already indicated that it would play a key component in the Obama administration’s training plan, he said.
“We think that, now that we’ve got a partner in the region to help us with the training, is that we could train more than 5,000 fighters over the course of one year,” he said. “Now, that would be in phases. It would not be all at once. The training itself would not take a full year, but we think that we could get more than 5,000 done in one year.”
The Pentagon is still trying to work out details of that plan, such as how to vet and recruit those Syrian fighters who are qualified to train with U.S. military personnel, according to Rear Adm. Kirby.
Congress has to approve the Obama administration’s request for the funding before military personnel could proceed with their training plan.