US-Backed Free Syrian Army Unable to Defeat ISIL

© REUTERS / Hosam KatanRebel fighters from 'the First Regiment', part of the Free Syrian Army, hold log as they participate in a military training in the western countryside of Aleppo May 4, 2015
Rebel fighters from 'the First Regiment', part of the Free Syrian Army, hold log as they participate in a military training in the western countryside of Aleppo May 4, 2015 - Sputnik International
Experts claim that the Free Syrian Army trained and equipped by the Pentagon in a $500 million effort is incapable of defeating or standing up to the ISIL.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The Free Syrian Army trained and equipped by the Pentagon in a $500 million effort is incapable of defeating or standing up to the ISIL, even with strong support, US experts told Sputnik.

“The FSA is a group of people that doesn’t exist. The FSA does not do anything by itself. It can’t. It is certainly not able to defeat the Islamic State by itself,” Robert Naiman, Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy, an organization that espouses to reform US foreign policy, said on Tuesday.

Any accurate map of the Syrian conflict reveals the ineffectiveness of the Free Syrian Army and the secular opposition forces, Naiman, an expert on the Middle East, insisted.

“Look at the map: They control nothing. The Islamic State controls the east of Syria. Kurdish forces backed by the US now control a strip of territory along the Turkish border, which the Turks did not want. So our Turkish allies had to stop supplying the Islamic State,” Naiman stated.

The Damascus-based legitimate government of President Bashar Assad still controls the most densely populated west of the country, Naiman noted.

Rebel fighters from the First Battalion under the Free Syrian Army take part in a military training on June 10, 2015, in the rebel-held countryside of the northern city of Aleppo - Sputnik International
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But, “The idea that the FSA is a kosher group, that it is an independent legitimate force — is unsustainable,” Naiman insisted. “There has been wailing and gnashing of teeth in Congress and in the US media over the train-and-equip program for the FSA. That of course has been a catastrophe.”

In reality the pool of potential recruits for the FSA was virtually non-existent,” he observed.

“The US military were only able to recruit and train a small number of people for this force because they vetted them closely. They insisted on applying standards. Not many people met them!” Naiman said.

The first small force of about 50 FSA fighters was routed and virtually wiped out by the Nusra Front, while a second group abandoned their expensive US-provided equipment when faced by Islamist State forces and fled, media reports have documented.

Naiman said that, despite public denials, these events had led US policymakers to reassess their support for the group.

“If you read the small print, there are a lot of signs of a pivot in US policy, which the Russian moves in Syria have helped to facilitate,” Naiman pointed out. “There are a lot of people in the Obama administration who believe that overthrowing the Syrian government is a really bad idea.”

The idea that a well-motivated, major insurgency can be defeated or contained by a very little guerrilla force of only a few thousand troops is absurd, the analyst argued.

However, despite the disaster of the FSA, the US government still had viable options in Syria if it agreed to work against the Islamic State with Russia, Naiman said.

“De facto cooperation between the United States and Russia can still work in Syria. The United State and the Kurds coming down from the North, and the Russians and Syrian army from the West: That could work,” he said.

Middle East expert and author John Quigley agreed that the FSA had proven to be a failure.

“It does appear the Free Syrian Army have not been very effective,” he said. “All the $500 million and major effort that the United States put into training them has not succeeded: Promoting that idea has not proved to be a viable option.”

The Obama administration still has no policy to replace the FSA, Quigley noted.

The group always lacked the most level of support in Syria that it needed to succeed, he concluded.

Just Foreign Policy is an independent and non-partisan membership organization dedicated to reforming US foreign policy to adhere to the principles of diplomacy, law and cooperation, according to the organization’s website.

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