Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, was forced to tell the truth Wednesday in front of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. As is often the case, the truth can be painful. It turns out that a $500 million dollar program launched by the Obama administration to train Syrian rebels has yielded “four or five” troops for the front line against the Islamic State group.
Here is the exchange between Gen. Austin and Republican Senator Deb Fischer on Wednesday:
Sen. Deb Fischer: When Senator Carter was here before this committee in July he testified that there were only about 60 Syrian fighters that had been trained in our train-and-equip program and reinserted. We’ve heard reports of attacks on those individuals when they were reinserted back into Syria. Can you tell us what the total number of trained fighters remains.
Austin: It’s a small number. The ones that are in the fight is, we’re talking four or five.
Yes, you read that correctly — “four or five.”
The Daily Beast did a decent job summing up the situation:
It is a staggeringly low number for a project in which the Obama administration had initially planned to train 5,400 fighters a year. At this pace of training, U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin told a Senate committee, the U.S. “won’t reach the goal we initially established for ourself.” In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Austin and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth gave a relatively rosy picture of the U.S.-led effort to defeat ISIS, characterizing the Syrian train-and-equip program as merely “off to a slow start.”
“That’s a joke,” Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) told Austin, referring to the “four or five” figure.
It would be a joke if the situation wasn’t so serious.
As it stands, the Islamic State group still controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria, Libya and Yemen (once touted as White House foreign policy successes) have imploded, and the United Nations puts the number of registered Syrian refugees at 4 million.
The Obama administration told the world for the past year that it had everything under control — and then Europe was flooded with refugees.
It also appears as though intelligence experts were pressured into giving the White House the exact message it wanted: Nothing to see here. Move along. Move along.
NBC News reported Sept. 16:
“Published media reports suggest that the CIA’s estimate of ISIL’s manpower has remained constant, despite U.S. airstrikes-which suggests that either they were wrong to begin with, or that ISIL is replacing its losses in real time. Neither is good,” said committee chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
“Indeed, this committee is disturbed by recent whistleblower allegations that officials at Central Command skewed intelligence assessments to paint an overly-positive picture of conditions on the ground,” McCain said. He said the committee was investigating the allegations. “If true, those responsible must be held accountable,” he said.
Mr. Obama raised his head up high after adopting a “lead from behind” strategy. He seems to care more about inviting Muslim high school “suitcase-clock” makers to the White House than dealing with Islamic terrorist armies marching across the Middle East. He created a leadership vacuum in the world, which was quickly filled by its worst actors.
Sadly, many media outlets still refuse to accurately cover just how disastrous the president’s foreign policy has been. Indeed, it is hard to blame George W. Bush for a $500 million Obama anti-ISIL plan that churned out “four or five” soldiers.
As time runs out on the Obama administration, expect dictators, despots and terrorists around the globe to make an extra push for easy geopolitical gains. They know a guy like Mr. Obama doesn’t come around too often.