- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Pentagon admitted Friday that a U.S.-trained rebel commander in Syria has surrendered trucks and ammunition this week to an al Qaeda affiliate.

Military officials, who had denied media reports on the hand-over days earlier, called the disclosure “very concerning” and a violation of guidelines for the American training program for Syrian rebels, The New York Times reported.

“Unfortunately, we learned late today that the NSF [New Syrian Forces] unit now says it did in fact provide six pickup trucks and a portion of their ammunition to a suspected al-Nusra Front [group],” said Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis, the Independent reported.

U.S. Central Command [CENTCOM] said the rebel commander told the Pentagon he surrendered the American ammunition and trucks in exchange for safe passage through the territory where the al Qaeda offshoot, the Nusra Front, operates.

Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for CENTCOM, said the items exchanged “equated to roughly 25 percent” of the equipment issued to the rebel fighters led by the commander, who had recently completed training, The Times reported.

The weapons surrender is the latest blow to the controversial $500 million training program intended to equip local militia forces to combat Islamic State militants on the ground in addition to the U.S.-led airstrike campaign.

Gen. Lloyd Austin admitted earlier this month that only four or five U.S.-trained fighters were still operating in Syria.

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