U.S. Revamping Rebel Force Fighting ISIS in Syria

New York Times, By Eric Schmitt & Ben Hubbard, September 6

Washington — In an acknowledgment of severe shortcomings in its effort to create a force of moderate rebels to battle the Islamic State in Syria, the Pentagon is drawing up plans to significantly revamp the program by dropping larger numbers of fighters into safer zones as well as providing better intelligence and improving their combat skills.

The proposed changes come after a Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda attacked, in late July, many of the first 54 Syrian graduates of the military’s training program and the rebel unit they came from. A day before the attack, two leaders of the American-backed group and several of its fighters were captured.

The encounter revealed several glaring deficiencies in the program, according to classified assessments: The rebels were ill-prepared for an enemy attack and were sent back into Syria in too small numbers. They had no local support from the population and had poor intelligence about their foes. They returned to Syria during the Eid holiday, and many were allowed to go on leave to visit relatives, some in refugee camps in Turkey — and these movements likely tipped off adversaries to their mission. Others could not return because border crossings were closed.

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  • Britain signals move toward air strikes in Syria

    Reuters, By Nick Tattersall and William Schomberg, September 5

    Ankara/London – Britain moved closer to military action in Syria as a senior minister on Saturday said Europe’s migration crisis had to be tackled at its source and a newspaper said a parliamentary vote on bombing Islamic State militants in Syria could take place next month.

    Finance minister George Osborne said Britain and Europe had to find a way to tackle the conflict in Syria as well as provide asylum to those genuinely fleeing persecution.

    “You’ve got to deal with the problem at source, which is this evil Assad regime and the ISIL (Islamic State) terrorists, and you need a comprehensive plan for a more stable, peaceful Syria,” Osborne told Reuters in an interview.

    “A huge challenge of course, but you can’t just let that crisis fester. We’ve got to get engaged in that.”

    The Sunday Times newspaper said British Prime Minister David Cameron wanted to hold a vote in parliament in early October to pave the way for air strikes against Islamic State in Syria.

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