Nope, it’s not a trick question. The number is zero.
A year ago Congress granted a White House request for half a billion dollars to identify, train, and equip “moderate” Syrians to accomplish the dual US goal of defeating ISIS as well as overthrowing those fighting against ISIS, the Syrian government.
As with most foreign policy moves sold by the neocons and interventionists, grandiose promises of success have found themselves at odds with reality. Advocates of the program claimed that it would produce 5,400 US-trained and armed fighters per year. In fact since the money was approved last May, less than 100 are actually being trained and none has yet completed the course.
One problem with the overt training program is that it could only train well-vetted “moderates” to form a new democratic, secular Syria. The challenge is the same as with unicorn hunting — the creature only exists in the feverish minds of those who believe they create new realities (from the comfy appointments of Beltway think tanks).
The CIA of course does not face the same PR problem. Their covert training program consumes an estimated billion dollars per year and has no qualms about passing training and weapons on to those who fight side-by-side with al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. Recently, Congress decided to cut CIA funding for the program over concerns that — surprise — a rebel victory in Syria would not lead to democratic nirvana but rather to an ISIS-controlled Libya-like state in the Middle East.
As with all foreign recipients of US government largesse, “moderate” Syrian rebel leaders promise that victory is just around the corner — if only more money could be fed into the pipeline. As the Washington Post reported recently:
‘They have coherent command and control and have unified Sunni groups,’ said Oubai Shahbandar, a former top adviser to the opposition leadership… The training program, Shahbandar said, ‘is a precedent in terms of what works.’ Rather than cut funds, he said, the United States ‘should really double down on its southern program.
Truly a man worthy of a Beltway think tank sinecure. When a policy is demonstrated to be a total disaster, the solution is to “double down.”
Meanwhile, the neocons are urging us to stop worrying so much and start loving al-Qaeda and Israel is lustily eyeing more property in the occupied Golan Heights (this time the parts where the water is).
What could go wrong? Double down!9:27 am on June 30, 2015 Email Daniel McAdams