US-trained Syrian fighters refusing to fight

Division 30 is accusing Pentagon of misrepresenting its mission, saying they signed up to fight ISIL not al-Nusra Front.

    Syrian fighters trained by the United States are now refusing to fight.

    In the past few days, five of the US backed recruits have been detained by the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front. A sixth recruit has reportedly been killed.

    The US-backed group, Division 30, is accusing the Pentagon of misrepresenting its mission.

    The fighters say they signed up to battle the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), not the al-Nusra Front.

    The group is also opposed to US air strikes carried out on al-Nusra Front fighters in recent days.

    In a statement, the Pentagon denied it distorted its battle plan.

    The 54-strong rebel unit, trained and equipped by the Pentagon, was inserted into Aleppo province in mid-July as part of US plans to forge a moderate force for the campaign against the ISIL.

    But despite al-Nusra's fierce hostility of ISIL, fighters from the Division 30 soon came under attack by the al-Qaeda loyalists, who believe that the US-backed battalion would end up battling them. Al-Nusra is considered a terrorist organisation by the US and other Western countries.

    Despite the apparent failure of the plan, the Pentagon has defended its decision to recruit fighters in Syria, saying that the challenges "have not significantly encumbered" their strategy in the country.

    The US last month admitted it trained no more than 60 Syrian opposition fighters to battle ISIL, far below expectations, Defence Secretary Ash Carter told Congress.

    The programme, which launched in May in Jordan and Turkey, was designed to train as many as 5,400 fighters a year. Washington admitted it could not train more than 60 fighters, citing rigorous vetting of recruits.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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