- The Washington Times - Friday, January 16, 2015

The U.S. military will send 400 troops to train Syrian rebels to fight back against Islamic State militants within the next few months.

Pentagon officials met with Syrian opposition fighters in Turkey this week to discuss the parameters of the training plan, according to a Jan. 14 Pentagon statement. Defense One first reported the number of U.S. troops that would implement the first leg of that plan on Thursday.

“Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar have agreed to host training sites, and we anticipate the program to train and equip the moderate Syrian opposition will take approximately 400 U.S. trainers, with the caveat that this number could fluctuate based on course load, course requirements and other variables,” Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Cmdr. Elissa Smith said. “We also anticipate that the trainers will have enablers. We expect to begin training in early spring.”

The Obama administration expects to spend $500 million on preparing 5,000 Syrian opposition fighters to combat the Islamic State starting this spring. Saudi Arabia has agreed to provide a facility for that training.

Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren told The Washington Times in September that the U.S. military was searching for ways to speed up that training process.

“We are considering ways to expedite this timeline,” he said. “This is a long-term investment that will require some time on the front end for infrastructure, planning and logistics.”

• Maggie Ybarra can be reached at mybarra@washingtontimes.com.

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