The Obama administration is preparing a major overhaul of its failed effort to train thousands of moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State group, shifting from preparing rebels for frontline combat to a plan to embed them with established Kurdish and Arab forces in northeastern Syria, U.S. officials said.
But only northeast Syria where local forces are more involved in fighting ISIL than Assad. So the change is not to help the dwindling non-jihadis in the northwest and the Southern Front rebels in better shape. So we still haven't made the jump from wanting to pressure Assad into negotiations to defeating the Assad regime.
This is in reaction to the news that we have 4 or 5 trained rebels inside Syria fighting when we hoped to have thousands by the end of this year.
But don't get too excited about this "new" plan. We planned to do the exact same thing at the beginning of the year when we realized that the force we planned was too small to be an independent force:
Critics said (and still say, as that post indicates) this was too small a force to really go after Assad, and they were right.
But this new description [of how rebels would be employed] implies that the men we will train won't be an army so much as the heavy weapons component of an army. And the headquarters element, I assume.
That is, with a force that has the trained troops and communications gear for fire support and command and control, it could be the backbone that attracts other rebels who provide the basic foot soldiers of an army.
Indeed, I hoped that the rebels we trained could be shock troops for other rebels to leverage their small numbers:
Five thousand is the size of a brigade. Assuming these are all shooters unlike a regular brigade, 10 battalions of trained troops with good weapons including heavier weapons to bolster and lead the strategically immobile rebels on attacks could be sent singly or in groups to different parts of the war to grab land from Assad and ISIL, ending these two groups' monopoly on mobile shock troops.
This kind of impact will raise the prestige of the non-jihadi rebels and encourage recruitment to their ranks.
Sadly, we wanted to use rebels as a separate force to control a buffer zone along the Syria-Iraq border. Oddly, rebels want to fight to overthrow Assad rather than isolate our priority Iraq front in the fight against ISIL. Go figure.
We have a casualty back home as retired Marine General Allen resigns his position as coordinator of the anti-ISIL effort:
While acknowledging disagreements within Washington over U.S. policy toward the militant group, which has seized control of parts of Iraq and Syria, the U.S. official said Allen's plan to step down reflected personal, not professional, factors.
If I was Allen, I'd be personally and professionally embarrassed. Why choose?
How can we be so bad at arming enemies of a minority-based dictator who is hated by the majority and whose base of support is being crippled by the casualties needed to keep the dictator in power?
UPDATE: Maybe year two of the air war will be better than year one. Tip to Instapundit.
UPDATE: And I'll say it again. If we can't get worked up to defeat an enemy that is a virtual caricature of evil, who can we fight until we crush them?