Friday, October 16, 2015

Ex-Pentagon Chief: US Plan in Syria Was 'Nuts'

Robert M. Gates rides greets Cadets at West Point, N.Y., on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2011.

© AP Photo/ Lee Ferris
Middle Eastand more US officials are coming out against the Obama administration’s Syria policy. Former defense secretary Robert Gates has been gone so far as to call it "nuts."
Prior to Russia’s anti-terror campaign in Syria, Obama was the man with the $500 million plan. That’s how much the Pentagon set aside to train and equip so-called "moderate" Syrian rebels.
It was an overt failure from the start. With sights originally set on creating an army of 5,000 fighters, the program currently has fewer than ten.
That embarrassing lack of success has led to the program’s suspension, and the Obama administration is facing harsh criticism for its lack of foresight.
"I think the idea of training somebody from the outside and sending them in is nuts, it’s just not going to work," former US defense secretary Robert Gates told Fox News on Thursday.
And Gates should know. A former CIA director, he also led the Pentagon throughout both the Obama and Bush administrations.
During the interview, Gates also criticized President Obama for alienating the US military.
"I think there were people in the White House, and I don’t want to name any names, who were constantly goading him," Gates said, adding that those unnamed individuals were telling the president that "the military is trying to box you in."
"The military is trying to trap you. The military is trying to bully you. The military is trying to make you do something you don’t want to do."
During the train and equip program’s existence, the Pentagon had well-documented trouble trying to identify "moderate" rebels. Training less than 100, most of those fled after coming under attack from the al-Nusra Front.
Others handed over massive amounts of equipment to the al-Qaeda affiliate, including vehicles.
Despite the program’s failure, Washington is pushing forward with plans to arm rebels in the war-torn country. On Monday, the Pentagon airdropped nearly 50 tons of ammunition into Syria. It was only later that US officials admitted to having no real idea of where those supplies would end up.
"So while these forces, we do ask them, we want them to fight [IS] – I’m not prepared to talk about requirements or restrictions or pledges or anything like that," Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday.
Russia’s anti-terror campaign, however, is proving remarkably successful. Since airstrikes began on September 30, Russian warplanes have destroyed 456 targets of the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group, according to the Russian General Staff.
"Most armed formations are demoralized," Colonel-General Andrei Kartapolov, head of the Main Operations Directorate of the Russian General Staff, told reporters on Friday.
"There is growing discontent with field commanders, and there is evidence of disobedience. Desertion is becoming widespread."

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