1,000 U.S. troops bound for Syria
WASHINGTON – A U.S. program to train moderate Syrian rebels could involve as many as 1,000 American military trainers and support personnel, the Pentagon said Friday.
Trained rebels could be back on the battlefield in Syria by the end of the year.
Rear Adm. John Kirby said the U.S. will send several hundred trainers and probably an equal number of support troops, including security teams, to the training sites, which will be in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
"All told, the number total for this mission could approach 1,000," he said. "It might even exceed that."
There also could be hundreds of trainers from other countries, said Kirby, including troops from nations hosting the training sites as well as other nations.
The opposition forces are to be trained to defend their own towns inside Syria against extremist groups, to later go on the offensive against militant forces, and eventually to work toward a political solution to the Syrian civil war.
Kirby said the U.S. is now attempting to identify Syrian moderate groups from which to recruit. "But no recruiting has actually yet started. No trainees have been identified and enrolled in this program just yet," he said.
Plans for the U.S. and others to train Syria's moderate opposition have dragged on for months as officials have struggled to work out details of the program and put together a process to identify appropriate rebel groups to be trained.