The GAO is probably not going to score this as money well spent.
A couple of weeks ago, we learned that the much-publicized program to train Syrian opposition fighters was costing the U.S. taxpayer about $4 million per fighter. The numbers were pretty disappointing too, with only about 60 fully vetted and certified graduates after nearly a year.
On Thursday, one of the 4-million-dollar men, who had just been inserted into Syria to lead a group of his fellow trainees, was abducted by the Al-Nusra Front — Sunni Islamists affiliated with Al-Qaeda. The abductee, Nadeem Hassan, wasn’t just any old trainee. He’s a defector from the Syrian army who recruited many of the trainees for the U.S. program. His second in command was abducted with him.
The New York Times has the story:
A Pentagon program to train moderate Syrian insurgents to fight the Islamic State has been vexed by problems of recruitment, screening, dismissals and desertions that have left only a tiny band of fighters ready to do battle.
Those fighters — 54 in all — suffered perhaps their most embarrassing setback yet on Thursday. One of their leaders, a Syrian Army defector who recruited them, was abducted in Syria near the Turkish border, along with his deputy who commands the trainees. They were seized not by the Islamic State but by its rival the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda that is another Islamist extremist byproduct of the four-year-old Syrian civil war.
The abductions illustrate the challenges confronting the Obama administration as it seeks to marshal local insurgents to fight the Islamic State, which it views as the region’s biggest threat.
After a year of trying, the Pentagon still struggles to find recruits to fight the Islamic State without also battling the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, their original foe. The willing few face vetting meant to weed out extremists, so stringent that only dozens have been approved, and they are bit players in the rebellion. The program has not engaged with the biggest, most powerful groups, Islamist factions that are better funded, better equipped and more motivated.
READ THE FULL STORY HERE