The Los Angeles Times reports: Eleven months after President Obama announced plans to arm opposition fighters to confront Islamic State militants in war-torn Syria, the $500-million program to train a proxy force has yet to begin, raising questions about its viability and effectiveness.
The lack of a reliable partner on the ground has restricted the U.S. ability to gather intelligence and to target airstrikes against Islamic State leaders in Syria. The Sunni Muslim extremist group continues to lure recruits, raise money and maintain strongholds despite the U.S.-led bombing effort that began in September.
Adding to the challenge, the four countries where the military training will take place — Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — sharply disagree with Washington on what the proposed proxy force should do. They want it to focus first on ousting Syrian President Bashar Assad, while the White House wants the fighters to target Islamic State.
Rebels in Aleppo, Syria
Rebel fighters battling Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces take position in the ruins of a building in Old Aleppo. (Salih Mahmud Leyla / Anadolu Agency)
The slow rollout and the competing objectives have caused friction between the U.S. and several key allies, and frustration for those in Syria who had hoped Obama’s plan would lead to more immediate U.S. assistance. [Continue reading…]