Senior lawmakers criticise US strategy in Syria

Members of US Senate Armed Services Committee astonished and criticise US strategy over half a billion-dollar spending on Syria yet no fruitful result

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., left, questions US Central Command Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015,during the committee's hearing on US military operations

The US senior lawmakers have slammed defence officials over America’s policy against ISIS militants, and vented outrage based on the overstate coalition achievements in Syria.

The hearing took place as President Barack Obama’s government fails to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS, which still controls several parts of Iraq and Syria and has gotten support across the region from Lebanon to Yemen, Libya and Egypt despite continous daily air strikes. 

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee were astonished to learn a half-billion-dollar programme to train moderate Syrian rebels had gotten off to a disastrous start, and said it was time to implement "safe zones" over parts of Syria to prevent forces loyal to President Bashar al Assad from dropping barrel bombs.

Committee Chairman Senator John McCain, a former Republican candidate who ran against president in 2008 said "We are seeing the latest manifestation of this failed policy, the flood of people pouring out of the Middle East that has led to the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II."

Train and equip programme

One among the topic central to the hearing was the issue of local forces fighting ISIS militants. The US refused to commit ground troops in the region, the Obama administration in January began a "train and equip" programme for Syrian opposition fighters as part of a broader campaign to support local forces in Syria and Iraq.

The initial plan was for around 5,400 vetted Syrians each year for three years. But the programme was unsuccessful, with many locals fighters failing the screening process.

When questioned on how many of that group remained, General Lloyd Austin conceded it was only a handful.

"It's a small number," Austin said. "The ones that are in the fight is... we're talking four or five."

'Cooked' intelligence?

Pentagon has already acknowledged the fight against the ISIS militants to take years, senior lawmakers addressed the allegations that senior military officials have changed information to undermine the influence of ISIS and Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria.

The scandal erupted after a Daily Beast reporting 50 US intelligence analysts had complained of intelligence manipulation.

The Pentagon's inspector general was investigating the allegations, said Austin.

He said "Based upon the findings, you can be assured that I will take appropriate actions."

Republican Senator Tom Cotton said he was surprised to hear allegations of intelligence being "cooked," given that the existing reports "are not painting a very pretty picture how this campaign is going."

TRTWorld and agencies