Pindo has trained less than 100 in Syria to fight ISIS
Tara Copp, Stars and Stripes, Jun 27 2016
WASHINGTON — Less than 100 additional Syrian leaders have been trained under a revamped Pentagon program to fight ISIS, boxtops said Monday. In October, the Pentagon halted another train-and-equip program in Syria, which transported whole units of fighters out of the country to train at facilities in Turkey, Jordan and other locations. The fighters were given Pindosi equipment, trained and transported back to Syria. But the vast majority of the Syrian units left the program or turned over their Pindosi-provided equipment to other groups. The Pentagon had planned to train about 5,000 fighters each year in the first program, which cost $346.8m in FY 2015. But in September, Gen Lloyd Austin, who led CENTCOM at the time, informed Congress that only “four or five” Pindo-trained fighters were in Syria. On Monday, three Pindosi officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity described the new train-and-equip program, which was started in March. The revamped program does not try to train entire units. Instead, it identifies key Syrian leaders and trains them in skills such as spotting potential targets for Pindosi and coalition airstrikes. One of the three Pentagon officials who briefed reporters on the status of the new Syria train-and-equip program said:
We’re not necessarily training large units to maneuver in fire. Rather than training ten people to use a rifle, if you can train a smaller number of people to accurately describe their own position relative to the position of enemy forces, it enables them to better coordinate resupply and describe enemy positions.
The program returns those leaders to their units to push that training down the ranks and provides equipment to the forces that they lead. The new program to train the leaders has $416m budgeted for it in FY 2016, and includes the equipment that Pindostan is providing. The newly-trained leaders are returning to their units with communications equipment, small arms and ammunition to distribute. The units are also getting vehicles and some artillery. Over the weekend, the NYT reported another Pindo program to train and equip Syrian forces had lost equipment to Jordanian intelligence operatives who were siphoning off and selling that supply as they moved through the country on their way to Syria. The officials would not comment Monday on the CIA program but said the DoD’s equipping program was enforcing accountability by only distributing limited amounts of ammunition and guns, and by keeping “eyes on” the units using the larger equipment. The officials estimated between earlier efforts to train and equip forces and this new program, Pindostan has reached approximately 10,000 Sunni Arab forces. All of the units getting training and equipment through the new program are Sunni, the officials said. “Those numbers don’t include our Kurdish partners,” one official said. Kurdish forces are also getting assistance and working with Pindo advisers in Syria, but that effort is separate from this program, one of the officials said.