The Pentagon is urgently trying to figure out what to do with its flailing train-and-equip program, which is aimed at preparing moderate Syrian rebels to fight ISIS.
Some 70 trainees, the second group to enter the program, are expected to complete it in the next several weeks, but it’s not clear what will happen at that point.
The concerns come in the wake of an Al Qaeda attack on a small group of the first US trained and equipped rebels in northern Syria.
The review is expected to determine what changes, if any, need to be made, according to several defense officials.
Officials are looking at whether the 70 rebels currently in training should be sent back to a safer area inside Turkey where that Al Qaeda group may not be located. For now, no significant changes in policy are expected.
“The program has been disappointing on every level,” one defense official told CNN. “We are taking a careful look at what is going on.”
Several rebels fled after the attack at their compound, as many as five were believed to be captured, and some never even made it to the compound, having gotten stuck in Turkey and unable to make it across the border. Others are believed to have possibly deserted or been captured as well, since they have not been seen since finishing training.
So far, the only US military commitment to the rebels is that if they come under attack, the US will provide defensive airstrikes. The current US policy is to continue to insist the rebels fight ISIS and not the Assad regime.