There are only four or five fighters left from a group of 54 Syrian rebels trained under a highly touted $500 million, U.S.-funded program to beat back Islamic State (ISIS) militants, a top military commander for operations in the Middle East says.
Another 100-120 fighters will be trained in the program’s three remaining classes, officials testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, NBC News reports
President Barack Obama said last year that strengthening the Syrian rebels represented the "the best counterweight" to ISIS militants, NBC News notes.
But Gen. Lloyd Austin, who leads the U.S. military’s Central Command, conceded the program is behind schedule and that initial training targets won't be met, NBC News reports. He said, however, that he expects the numbers of U.S.-trained Syrian rebels to grow.
During Austin’s testimony, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain appeared frustrated with the U.S.-led coalition’s inability to degrade the terror group’s ranks.
"Published media reports suggest that the CIA’s estimate of [ISIS'] manpower has remained constant, despite U.S. airstrikes, which suggests that either they were wrong to begin with, or that [ISIS] is replacing its losses in real time. Neither is good," McCain said, NBC reported.
"Indeed, this committee is disturbed by recent whistleblower allegations
that officials at Central Command skewed intelligence assessments to paint an overly-positive picture of conditions on the ground," he added.
Experts believe ISIS has at least 30,000 soldiers, WND.com reports.
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