A total of 70 graduates of the Coalition’s Syria Train and Equip Program have already returned to Syria over the weekend and are now fighting the ISIS as New Syrian Forces. The alleged defections follow the July 31 ambush by Nusra of an earlier group of Syrians who’d been dispatched to the battlefield after months of training in Turkey by USA special forces.
The statement added that the newly trained Syrian rebels were successfully deployed inside Syria, but that they were not under the command of the coalition forces. Davis stressed that some of the photos posted on Twitter have been repurposed.
The program to train and equip fighters on the ground aligned with the USA aim of ridding the country of ISIS has been pilloried on Capitol Hill. Sen.
Last week, Gen. Lloyd Austin the Centcom commander, said fewer than five U.S.-backed fighters were then in Syria.
It’s patently false that there have been defections or weapons turned over by them, and we believe the claims to those effect to be untrue.
Yet that accounting created still more confusion. The first group of 54 New Syrian Forces was largely disbanded following an attack by Nusra. Kurdish forces, fighting independently but with USA support, have seized key sections of northern Syria near Raqqa and the Turkish border.
At the Senate committee hearing September 16, Sen. Jeff Session, R-Ala., said the program was “a total failure”. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, ridiculed it as “a joke”. He also said the group had disowned its parent organization, Division 30, the larger rebel unit from which the Pentagon trainees have been drawn, and would call themselves Atareb Rebels, after the town where they are based.
“There were some mistakes made, initially, with the first class”, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said Tuesday.
“We are in contact with these people”, Davis said, including that all of the second class rebels were accounted for on Wednesday morning.
Nusayri is a derogatory term for Alawite, the offshoot of Shiite Islam to which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad belongs, while the rawafed is a pejorative term for Shiites.
Speaking to ARA News, Abu al-Adham, member of the Muhajireen Brigade, said: “We, under the leadership of Abu Abdullah al-Turkistani, have pledged allegiance to al-Nusra Front after the war in Syria entered a critical juncture, especially after Russian Federation started a military buildup in Syria”. Al-Qaeda says he was theirs all along.
In response to the allegations, the USA trained group, known as Division 30, posted a statement on its Facebook page saying it is investigating.
There was still more chatter and conflicting information on Twitter.
Another purported Al-Nusra member, Abu al-Maqdisi, claimed that the Division 30 commander Anas Ibrahim Obaid, said that he had tricked the coalition because he needed weapons.
“A strong slap for America”, he tweeted.