US military starts training Syrian opposition fighters

US Defense Secretary Carter says they have started training Syrian opposition fighters against ISIS

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The United States announced on Thursday it began to train Syrian opposition fighters to combat against ISIS to further increase the US involvement in the Syrian civil war eight months after starting air strikes in the country.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the training has begun with a small group of 90 Syrians but new groups are expected to follow in coming days.

Jordanian government sources confirmed that the training began in the country several days ago.

Other training missions are expected to start in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar soon.

The US announced earlier that they plan to train 15,000 opposition fighters in total over the course of three years and have already completed pre-screening of 400 volunteers.

"We're starting with the people that we have that we've vetted very carefully," Carter said in a Pentagon news briefing.

"We expect that to be successful and therefore to grow. But you have to start somewhere, and this is where we're starting."

The selected fighters will receive training on basic military equipment and skills, including firearms, communications, command and control abilities.

Carter said the training of the first group will take about a few months and the US will support them once deployed on the ground without specifying the kind of support.

"We have not determined yet all of the rules of engagement ... but we have acknowledged that we have some responsibility to support them," Carter said.

The long awaited announcement comes as opposition forces have made gains recently in northern Syria, capturing the city of Idlib and increasing their areas of control in the region.

“I do think that the regime's momentum has been slowed, and therefore you can certainly from that take that I do believe the situation is trending less favourably for the regime,” chairman of the US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey said.

TRTWorld and agencies