If you cannot find a “moderate” opposition, then you must create one. Apparently, this was the sentiment behind the decision by the UK Ministry of Defence to resume its suspended program of training so-called moderate opposition fighters in the war-torn country.
UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon will announce the decision on Tuesday, according to British media reports. Some 20 UK trainers will be deployed in Syria or in neighbouring territories “to provide vetted members of the moderate Syrian opposition with the skills they need to continue to take the fight to Islamic State.”
“All volunteers from the moderate opposition will be subject to strict vetting procedures and will receive training in international humanitarian law. Trainees will be security and medically screened prior to the start of training and will be assessed during and monitored after training,” Fallon told reporters.
The training is reported to include basic infantry drills and battlefield medicine, as well as skills to avoid mines and booby-traps, according to the text of the upcoming announcement. The program was put on hold in 2015, after it became known that very few of the fighters trained in Turkey by western instructors succeeded in their mission, having either been killed by Daesh or Nusra front jihadists, or surrendering, along with all of their brand-new US-supplied weapons and communications gear.
The US participation in the Syrian moderate-opposition training program spent a reported $500 million on the program and was shut down by US President Barack Obama after it was detailed that the program, aimed at delivering some 15,000 skilled fighters to the front, produced only a handful of soldiers. US commanders acknowledged that they struggled to find militants who would agree to only fight Daesh, and not the Syrian army.
The UK Ministry of Defence still believes the moderate-opposition story, denying that those rebels are extremists. On the contrary, US President Barack Obama is reportedly unwilling to send more manpower to “moderates” in Syria, as it has been suggested that they are becoming increasingly jihadist. Critics of the moderate opposition notion observe that the fighting skills, to say nothing of the weapons themselves, will be transferred to Daesh or other groups, as rebel fighters have willingly surrendered in the past. Currently, some 500 British troops are training Kurdish and Iraqi forces in Iraq to support the ongoing assault on Mosul, according to the Telegraph.