WASHINGTON, November 4, 2014 —
The Defense Department is progressing toward the establishment of a program to train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces, the Pentagon press secretary said today.
The curriculum and training sites are being prepared and instructors are being lined up, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters.
Trainers for the program will be contributed by nations from across the coalition, he said, not just from the United States.
The process by which opposition forces will be vetted is still being codified, Kirby acknowledged. The coalition is still working to resolve a number of issues, he explained, including which nation will take the lead in vetting and training the forces.
“There's still some additional work that needs to be done,” he said. “And we're all mindful of the importance in getting it -- the program -- getting it established and getting it running.”
“It's more important to get this right than to get it fast,” the admiral added, “because the stakes are so high and because it matters so much ... that we can deliver on helping develop a trained, moderate opposition in Syria that has the requisite leadership and military skills to actually go ahead and defend territory inside Syria.”
The recent clashes between opposition forces are not helpful to the general security situation, Kirby said, but they also aren’t a new development and shouldn’t be considered a potential setback to the training plans.
“We have seen violence between them before. We have seen territory swap and change hands before between al-Nusra and opposition groups. This is not a new phenomenon,” the admiral said.
The department is monitoring the situation, he said, noting that the fighting between Syrian moderate and extremist groups is one of the reasons why the coalition is determined to get the train and equip program up and running.
“We're looking forward to getting this train and equip program up and running so that we can train a moderate opposition to better defend their citizens, their towns or villages, to go against ISIL and to work towards a settlement inside Syria.”
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