US Gen. Breedlove to head to Turkey for rebel training program

A senior US general will travel to Turkey on Tuesday to inspect a site designated for training moderate Syrian rebel groups to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), media reported.

US Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) of NATO Allied Command Operations and head of the US European Command, will be in the central province of Kiriehir to meet with Turkish military officers to discuss the latest preparations to launch the long-anticipated training program in Turkey.

The US started its long-awaited train-and-equip program in Jordan on Friday amid mounting doubts and questions over the program, with both Syrian opposition and US Congress members finding its scope too narrow.

To Syrian opposition members, the program offers too little and is too slow, as the Pentagon forecasts that it would take three years to train slightly more than 15,000 fighters to combat the ISIL threat. For the Syrian rebel groups, the program’s principal objective has nothing to do with their cause, toppling the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the US media last week that the military was starting small, training a first group of just 90 Syrians.

quotWe’re starting with the people that we have that we’ve vetted very carefully,quot Carter said at a Pentagon news briefing.

The US training program only fueled the resentment of the rebel groups, some rebel representatives told international media on Friday after announcement of the program in Jordan.

The US and Turkey signed an agreement to train moderate Syrian rebels in late February, but the program faced several delays in execution. Ankara has voiced significant reservations about the scope of the program and occasionally conveyed its concerns through international media.

For Turkey, Assad is the main factor that fans extremism, and any international effort first needs to deal with the regime in Damascus.