“By any measure,” writes the New York Times’s Peter Baker, “President Obama’s effort to train a Syrian opposition army to fight the Islamic State on the ground has been an abysmal failure.” How abysmal? General Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that the $500 million the administration had committed to the training effort fell slightly short of initial goal of 5,000 troops.
When pressed for the number of fighters that had been successfully trained, the general replied, “We’re talking four or five.”
Four or five? That works out to between $100 million and $125 million per fighter! Either these troops are super-elite, or a president who has been in over his head militarily since before taking office goofed once again.
But that’s not how Obama sees it. He blames the failure on … former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In fact, according to the White House, Obama never thought training Syrian rebels was a good idea to start with.
The Times’s Baker continues:
In effect, Mr. Obama is arguing that he reluctantly went along with those who said it was the way to combat the Islamic State, but that he never wanted to do it and has now has been vindicated in his original judgment. The I-told-you-so argument, of course, assumes that the idea of training rebels itself was flawed and not that it was started too late and executed ineffectively, as critics maintain.
Either way, it underscored White House sensitivities about the widening Syrian catastrophe. With more than 200,000 killed in the civil war, a wave of refugees flooding into Europe, and Russia now flying in arms and troops, the president finds himself with a geopolitical and humanitarian mess that will most likely not be settled before he leaves office in 16 months.
CONTINUE READING THIS ARTICLE AT THE NEW YORK TIMES.