US: Only 60 Syrians being trained to fight ISIS

2015-07-08 09:38
Ashton Carter. (J Scott Applewhite, AP)

Ashton Carter. (J Scott Applewhite, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Only about 60 Syrian rebels are being trained by the United States to take on ISIS, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said on Tuesday, admitting it was far below the number hoped for.

The disclosure is likely to add to criticism of the Obama administration's military strategy, with US Senator John McCain saying that the United States was "losing" the fight against the extremists, who have overrun large areas of Syria and Iraq.

Several lawmakers including McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, grilled Carter and the military's top general, Martin Dempsey, on topics ranging from Ukraine to the Middle East.

America wants to train thousands of moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS forces, but Carter said only a few dozen had so far been approved for a program that is a central tenet of Washington's strategy to beat the ISIS.

Carter said the US was training about 60 fighters as of last week.

"This number is much smaller than we had hoped for at this point," he added, pointing to difficulties in vetting suitable candidates.

"We know this program is essential. We need a partner on the ground in Syria to assure ISIS's lasting defeat."

McCain criticised what he called "not a very impressive number".

In January, the Pentagon said about 5 400 Syrian rebels would be trained and armed in the first year of the programme and US lawmakers have allocated about $500m to the effort.

McCain said the "reality" on the ground is that ISIS jihadists continue to gain territory in Iraq and Syria, while expanding their footprint across the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.

"There is no compelling reason to believe that anything we are currently doing will be sufficient to achieve the president's long-stated goal of degrading and ultimately destroying ISIS, either in the short-term or the long-term," McCain said at the Senate Armed Services Committee, which he chairs.

"Our means and our current level of effort are not aligned with our ends. That suggests we are not winning, and when you are not winning in war, you are losing."


The sometimes testy exchanges came a day after President Barack Obama spoke at the Pentagon and said the US-led coalition battling ISIS jihadists was "intensifying" its campaign against the group's base in Syria, but cautioned the fight would be long.

But McCain said the policy was unlikely to succeed, and called claims of success delusional.

"When it comes to ISIS, President Obama's comments reveal the disturbing degree of self-delusion that characterises the administration's thinking," he said.

Obama said more than 5 000 air strikes had been carried out against the group, eliminating "thousands of fighters, including senior ISIS commanders."

In recent days, the coalition has bombarded ISIS in a series of heavy raids, particularly targeting its de facto Syrian capital Raqa.

Additionally, McCain also asked whether the US military planned on providing lethal weapons to Ukraine, whose troops are fighting pro-Russia separatists in the east.

"Yes, I haven't changed my views," Carter replied.

But Carter stressed that sanctions against Russia and economic help to Ukraine, largely from Europe, are the "main event" in resolving the conflict.

Read more on:    john mccain  |  barack obama  |  us  |  syria  |  security

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…

What is at first an exciting tummy-turning adventure stunt, quickly turns into a scarily bad idea caught on camera. Take a look:


You won't want to miss...

Best date night restaurants in South Africa
WATCH: Ryan Reynolds offers fans a free tattoo in new Deadpool 2 teaser
Should you date your co-worker?
Hip Cape Town bars to discover this summer
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.