- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In the first interview by a member of the U.S.-trained New Syria Force, rebel fighter Abu Iskander called for the U.S. to speed up training for new rebel fighters and said recruits are ready to take on the Assad regime as well as the Islamic State.

“Nearly 17,000 Syrian men want to join, but the training is very slow,” Mr. Iskander toldCNN. “We need it to be faster — 30 days instead of 45 days. More Trainees — for example, our training in Jordan did 85 — we should have been 500 there and another 500 in Turkey.”

Mr. Iskander is one of just 54 moderate Syrian rebels trained by the U.S. to aid American forces in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Another 70 rebels are due to graduate shortly.

“We are thankful but it needs to happen faster,” Mr. Iskander told CNN.

The interview follows reports that several of the newly trained rebels were captured by al Qaeda, leading many to call the $41 million training program a failure.

Mr. Iskander said much of his work involved providing ground intelligence to U.S. forces to help target airstrikes.

“I go to the front line against ISIS, and I give locations for the warplanes to bomb,” he said, CNN reported. “We have developed communication devices using satellites that can target from any place on the front line whether we see it or not.”

He explained that his American contacts are able to keep track of his movements using GPS devices on his wrist and in his armored vest.

“There are daily drone flights and they’re in the sky as I talk to you now. I speak to the Americans every hour, a total of four hours a day,” Mr. Iskander said.

The rebel fighters are being trained solely to combat the Islamic State terrorist group, but many of the trainees have publicly complained that they do not wish to endure the lengthy vetting process if they cannot attack their primary adversary, the Assad regime.

Mr. Iskander insisted that he and his men will fight against the regime, repeating calls for a no fly zone over northern Syria.

“The second rule in the training project is that we fight whoever fights us,” he said, CNN reported. “The Assad regime is fighting us. We will control new areas from ISIS and we will have to face Assad, shall we stay sitting without fighting Assad?”

Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for the U.S. military’s Central Command, CENTCOM, declined to confirm whether Mr. Iskander is a member of the New Syrian Forces “as a matter of policy.”

The coalition does remain in contact with New Syrian Forces elements who have graduated from the program, who have expressed their eagerness to continue the counter-ISIL fight,” he said, adding they were being provided with “defensive fire support to protect them.”


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