The US plan to arm and train Syrian rebels to aid in the fight against ISIS has been dealt its most severe setback to date.
The US had finally managed to arm and train a group of rebels who were willing to fight ISIS. However, almost immediately after deploying the group, the commander and second in command of the unit were kidnapped in Syria, near the Turkish border by Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.
According to a report by the NY Times, this is a major setback to the already failing operation:
The abductions illustrate the challenges confronting the Obama administration as it seeks to marshal local insurgents to fight the Islamic State, which it views as the region’s biggest threat.
After a year of trying, the Pentagon still struggles to find recruits to fight the Islamic State without also battling the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, their original foe. The willing few face vetting meant to weed out extremists, so stringent that only dozens have been approved, and they are bit players in the rebellion.
The biggest kidnapping prize on Thursday was a leader of the trainees, Nadeem Hassan. When the Pentagon announced the program last year, Mr. Hassan helped to gather several groups totaling 1,200 insurgents, who were already fighting in Syria and willing to join the training. They began fighting together as a unit called Division 30. Also abducted were at least six other fighters from Division 30, but an American official said they were not among the graduates.
Besides the above issue, there continues to be great concerns that applicants for the program will simply take US training and weapons back to extremists groups and use them to fight against the US and our allies.