WASHINGTON – After months of delays and vetting, the training of moderate Syrian rebels has started in Jordan as part of a broader effort to build a force capable of fighting Islamic State extremists, US and Jordanian officials said Thursday.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter acknowledged, however, that the administration has yet to decide exactly how and when the US would support
or go to the rescue of Syrian rebel troops if they are attacked by forces under the control of President Bashar Assad. Carter said the US is training the rebel troops to fight against Islamic State militants, and will support the rebels in that effort with surveillance or airstrikes. But he said that while the US bears some general responsibility to protect the rebels, there have been no decisions yet on what the US would be willing to do if the trained rebels return to Syria and get into a battle with regime troops. Calling the training program a critical and complex part of the campaign to defeat the Islamic extremists, Carter said that the initial segment of the training program will involve about 90 Syrian rebel fighters.