- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Pentagon said Tuesday that its embattled program to train and equip Syrian rebels to combat the Islamic State has temporarily stopped receiving new recruits.

“We continue to recruit and vet potential participants for the [train and equip] program. As we review the program, we have paused the actual movement of new recruits from Syria,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said Tuesday, Reuters reported.

The $500 million program has faced numerous setbacks over the past year. The first class of less than 60 fighters came under attack from al Qaeda’s Syrian wing, Al Nusra.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Central Command commander, Gen. Lloyd Austin III, told Congress there were only four or five trainees from that first class still actively fighting the Islamic State in Syria. The Pentagon later revised that number to nine.

The Pentagon confirmed this week that its second class handed over American equipment to Al Nusra last week in exchange for safe passage.

Despite the concerns over the program’s effectiveness, the administration as requested another $600 million to continue to program in 2016.

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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