According to United States officials, a group of rebel fighters in Syria that had been trained by the United States have given a significant amount of critical supplies to a branch of Al-Qaeda.
The supplies had been provided to the rebel forces by the United States.
The United States has been working to establish a rebel force in Syria that is capable of defeating the military of the Islamic State (ISIS) extremists. Besides defeating ISIS, the United States also wants to force Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to step down from his position.
So far, the United States has spent $500 million trying to prepare the rebel forces for ISIS, giving them vehicles, weapons and ammunition which have ended up being handed over to Al-Qaeda.
Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis said on Friday, “Unfortunately, we learned late today that the NSF (New Syrian Forces) unit now says it did in fact provide six pickup trucks and a portion of their ammunition to a suspected Al-Nusra Front (group).”
Al-Nursa refers to a regional branch of Al-Qaeda in Syria.
The rebel fighters supposedly handed over the equipment in exchange for their safety within the area. Reportedly 25% of their issued equipment had been given to the Al-Qaeda group. Losing the supplies hurts the rebel training program of the United States while at the same time assists its enemies.
United States Central Command spokesperson Colonel Patrick Ryder is particularly worried about the exchange. Giving equipment to Al-Qaeda undermines the goals of the United States in the Middle East, and it is a waste of military spending.
“If accurate, the report of NSF members providing equipment to Al-Nusra Front is very concerning and a violation of Syria train and equip program guidelines,” he said.
Last week, 75 fighters trained in the United States entered Syria in order to take up frontline positions against ISIS forces in the Aleppo province. They represented the second group of fighters of the planned NSF team to cross into Syria.
Another group of 54 fighters had entered Syria in July. However, the group was attacked by Al-Nursa. Only four or five members of this group are still working in Syria.
Meanwhile, Russia has been increasing its military assistance to help keep Syrian president Assad in power. Russia says that only Assad’s forces are capable of fighting ISIS on the ground.
Throughout the year, Syrian Kurdish forces, along with the help of air support from the United States, have made large gains against forces of Al-Qaeda.