For the past three years, the Obama administration has hailed the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as the saviors of Syria — the “vetted moderate” force that was going to topple the butcher Assad. Because of that, the administration provided training, money and weapons to prop up the FSA (the word is they sent lawyers too).
But according to a report last night by Hannah Allam at McClatchy, Obama is now throwing the FSA under bus:
John Allen, the retired Marine general in charge of coordinating the U.S.-led coalition’s response to the Islamic State, confirmed Wednesday what Syrian rebel commanders have complained about for months – that the United States is ditching the old Free Syrian Army and building its own local ground force to use primarily in the fight against the Islamist extremists.
“At this point, there is not formal coordination with the FSA,” Allen told reporters at the State Department.
That was perhaps the bluntest answer yet to the question of how existing Syrian rebel forces might fit into the U.S. strategy to fight the Islamic State. Allen said the United States’ intent is to start from scratch in creating a home-grown, moderate counterweight to the Islamic State.
For most of the three years of the Syrian conflict, the U.S. ground game hinged on rebel militias that are loosely affiliated under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, or FSA. Their problems were no secret: a lack of cohesion, uneven fighting skills and frequent battlefield coordination with the al Qaida loyalists of the Nusra Front.
Those reports came just as Congress was considering a vote to spend another $500 million to train their administration’s “vetted moderate” partners. That funding was approved by both the House and the Senate before Congress left town for the election break. With Obama cutting the FSA loose less than a month later, those who voted against the funding are going to look like geniuses.
Now that the FSA is safely under the bus it remains to be seen exactly who Obama is going to enlist to train and fight. Most of those who can fight are already in the fight. What are they going to do now, put out an ad on Craig’s List?
As one observer noted last night, Syria watchers should keep an eye out for the following ad showing up in the help wanted section of Middle East newspapers:
Wanted, Multicultural, non-sectarian, Jeffersonian democrats interested in military careers. English a plus. Drug test required.
Under Obama’s bus must be getting crowded…