U.S.-Backed Forces Fighting Islamic State With ‘Simple Means’ in Syria

New program to combat terror group already faltering

Kurdish fighters combat IS in Iraq
Kurdish fighters combat IS in Iraq / AP

The alliance of ground forces the United States is now training and arming to fight the Islamic State in Syria after the failure of its $500 million Pentagon rebel training program is already facing difficulties.

According to interviews conducted by the New York Timesthe alliance–called the Syrian Democratic Forces but largely composed of Kurdish fighters–is combating the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS) with "simple means."

The Times reported:

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One Arab commander, sitting near the earthen wall that separates [the town Ein Eissa] in Syria from the Islamic State’s front line, bitterly recalled being chased from his Syrian hometown by the jihadists and said he would do anything to reclaim that territory. But then he detailed a list of things his forces needed: ammunition, radios, heavy weapons and more American airstrikes. "This is the state of our fighters: trying to fight ISIS with simple means," he said, pointing to a fighter in broken boots, tattered fatigues and a dirty sweatshirt that read "Skateboarding ruined my life."

The Syrian Democratic Forces also do not have their own bases or even a defined command structure, according to Talal Sillu, a spokesman for the alliance of fighters. Sillu said that only one person–himself–has been selected to serve on the six-person military council supposed to command the allied fighters.

The program also faces a larger challenge stemming from the fact that Kurdish forces make up the bulk of the alliance which is supposed to combat IS in predominantly Arab areas.

The U.S. announced the new plan to support groups fighting IS terrorists after shuttering the Pentagon program to arm and train Syrian rebels last month. The program, for which Congress had approved $500 million in funding, had produced no more than five U.S.-trained rebels fighting the terror group. Initially, the Defense Department’s goal was to train up to 5,400 Syrian troops in 2015.

The White House announced last week that it is also sending a small number of U.S. special operations forces into Syria to help support the Syrian Democratic Forces as they combat IS.