US hasn't given up on train and equip program
Gen. Odierno says US. should consider embedding its forces with Iraqi security personnel if they don’t make gains

The U.S. denied reports Wednesday that it is giving up on a program to train and equip Syrian rebels following recent setbacks.

Outgoing Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno told reporters that despite battlefield losses, the U.S. should not give up on the program, adding that "we have a lot of work to do”.

"As a military strategy, you always want to have your enemy having to respond to several different fronts,” Odierno said. "We want to try to develop capability so they have Iraqi Security Forces from the south, they have Kurds from the north, and we have Syrian rebels helping in Syria, pushing in the west. And I still think that's something we have to work at.”

His comments follow reports that the U.S. is considering shelving the train and equip program.

A total of 54 Syrian opposition fighters went into the country earlier this month after completing a training regimen at the beginning of July.

Shortly after the fighters were deployed they came under attack by al-Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, the Nusra Front. The U.S. carried out airstrikes in defense of the New Syrian Forces, but an unknown number were taken hostage by the extremists, and at least one was killed.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that the first batch of deployed recruits are not yet ready.

"We need to continue to train and equip these individuals and build up the capacity of those forces,” he said, emphasizing that the U.S. "remains focused” on the program.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon Odierno added that the U.S. should consider embedding its troops with Iraqi fighters in their fight against Daesh if they do not begin to see tangible results.

"If we find in the next several months that we are not making the progress that we have, we should probably absolutely embedding some soldiers with them, and see if that would make a difference,” he said.

The Army general is stepping down Friday from his position.

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Last Modified: 2015-08-13 08:43:11
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