“major changes in its military train-and-equip program”

The Obama administration is moving toward major changes in its military train-and-equip program for the Syrian opposition after the acknowledged failure of efforts to create a new force of rebel fighters to combat the Islamic State there. In comments that appeared to shock even many of those involved in Syria policy elsewhere in the government, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the head of the U.S. Central Command, told Congress on Wednesday that only “four or five” trainees from the program, a $500 million plan officially launched in December to prepare as many as 5,400 fighters this year, have ended up “in the fight” inside Syria. The course correction would mark the first significant alteration in the Obama administration’s year-old strategy of defeating the militants with air power, along with training and supplies for indigenous forces fighting them on the ground. It comes as critics have drawn a direct line between Obama’s long-standing reluctance to more directly intervene in the fight and the growing flood of Syrian refugees fleeing to the West.

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