Syrian rebels, armed and trained by U.S. and allied forces, reportedly surrendered equipment to a suspected Al Nusra Front intermediary, the U.S. Central Command said in a statement.
NPR’s Tom Bowman reports:
“The Defense Department says a commander of the New Syrian Forces, who had been trained and equipped by the U.S. and its allies, has surrendered trucks and ammunition to the Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda-affiliated group in Syria. U.S. Central Command says the rebel fighters apparently turned over the equipment in return for safe passage in the region. This is the second attempt to use coalition-trained rebels that has gone awry in Syria.”
U.S. Central Command spokesperson Col. Patrick Ryder said that if the report from the New Syrian Forces is accurate, it is “very concerning and a violation of Syria train and equip program guidelines.”
He said the group surrendered about 25 percent of their issued equipment.
Reuters reports that the incident points to problems within the Syrian rebel forces.
“The news was the most recent sign of trouble in a fledgling military effort to train fighters to take on the Islamic State militant group in Syria, where a 4-1/2-year civil war has killed about 250,000 people and caused nearly half of Syria’s prewar population of 23 million to flee.
“A top U.S. general told Congress last week that only a handful of the rebels are still fighting in Syria, though U.S. military officials said this week that dozens more have since joined them.
“U.S. officials have told Reuters that a review is underway that could result in scaling back and reenvisioning the program.”