As ISIS continues to pose a greater threat to the stability of the surrounding Middle East, as well as the national security of the United States, the U.S. influence in Syria is becoming more critical than before. However, some recent news from the Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has many people questioning the Obama Administration's foreign policy on this issue as Carter admitted before several U.S. official that only 60 fighters have been successfully trained in Syria thus far.
Due to the Obama administration’s promise to keep U.S. troops out of this conflict, training Syrian fighters was one piece of the Administration's plan to train troops in Syria to fight against ISIS.
The training program was projected to have successfully prepared at least 5,000 within the first year, making it abundantly clear that the program is far behind its goals and largely ineffective. Secretary Carter received harsh criticism from U.S. officials during a conference as he admitted the failings of this program. Carter blamed the strict vetting process for the lack of successful conversions.
All Syrian troops being trained undergo a strict onboarding process meant to ensure a few critical points. First and foremost, the troops must have the ability to fight ISIS. They must then pass a counterintelligence screening. Lastly, troops must meet the standards set forth by the U.S. for armed conflict. With 7,000 Syrian Kurds volunteering for this program, the vetting process has only allowed for 60 thus far.
Senator John McCain has been one of the harshest critics when it comes to President Obama’s strategy, calling it “delusional.” The comments came following a press conference at the Pentagon in which the President asked for patience as he said the effort in Syria will be a multi-year one. Carter and Obama argue that the effectiveness of the program will only improve over time as more and more troops are vetted.
Critics such as McCain, as well as American citizens, are calling the effectiveness of the program into question as ISIS continues to take several key cities and the instability in the area continues to grow. There are also calls for increased U.S. military presence in the conflict which the Obama administration is keen to avoid as it counters his legacy as a President who withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.