When the word
is just not strong enough
(The Hill) - The Pentagon is now training its third class of Syrian rebels in its plan to build a force to take on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a spokesman said Friday.
In total, the Pentagon is now currently training two classes, in a sign that the program is speeding up after a shaky beginning.
"We currently have two classes in training, and we continue to see significant interests and opposition forces volunteering for the program," U.S. Central Command spoesman Col. Pat Ryder said Friday.
One rebel was killed and five captured, according to defense officials. Some have reportedly vanished, prompting officials to acknowledge that the program has faced challenges.
"Certainly this past week highlighted some of the challenges associated with fielding the New Syrian Forces, but it's important to keep in mind the success does hinge on one fight, or one event, and we're still in the early phases of implementing this program," Ryder said.
"We're continually applying lessons learned and working as a coalition to make the [train and equip] progam better," he added.
The program has produced only 54 graduates so far since it officially started training them in May.
The second class of rebels did not begin training until late July. The third class began sometime since July 24.
Ryder would not say when exactly the third class began training, out of concern for the recruits' safety.
The Pentagon has kept details on the program as closely-held as possible, so as to protect them from ISIS and other groups when they redeploy back into Syria.
The recruits are training in Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and have faced security challenges coming in and out of Syria for the training.
Despite the program's shaky start, the Pentagon hopes to ramp up the total trainees to 3,000 by the end of the year and 5,000 by next May.Read More . . . .