Recent remarks by Defense officials that US-trained rebels operating in Syria numbered “four or five” may have, under different circumstances, sparked a debate asking if the program should continue at all. Instead, the White House has doubled down after criticism that the administration wasn’t doing enough through the Defense Department to bolster it’s proxy forces. 75 US-trained rebels have entered northern Syria from the bab al-Salama border point. Rebels use this crossing from Turkey to supply their operations in the Aleppo province. ISIL continues to focus on closing it in the hopes of cutting off rebel supply lines.
The parameters of the debate over the training program were between a President who felt justified in moderating US action, and a collection of interventionists who saw the revelation as an opportunity to increase pressure on President Obama to do more. The Senate should begin efforts to end the program, and schedule investigative hearings to disclose the details of its failure. Instead, the U.S. will continue to train rebels at a cost of billions. Only operational details will change. The US Government has given up on training a large-scale rebel force backed by superior airpower. It will concentrate on bolstering already-established rebel units, especially the YPG Kurdish forces, and use the small number of US-backed rebels to call in airstrikes against ISIL.