US-Trained Rebels Gave Millitary Equipment to Al-Qaeda

US-Trained Rebels Gave  Millitary Equipment to Al-QaedaUS-Trained Rebels Gave  Millitary Equipment to Al-Qaeda

The Pentagon has said a group of militants trained by the US military to fight Islamic State has handed equipment to the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front. It is the latest setback to the training program.

The US-trained Syrian rebels had given some of the equipment and ammunition supplied as part of the training program to Al-Nusra Front in exchange for safe passage, a US military spokesman said on Friday, DW reported.

Roughly 25% of the equipment assigned to the unit had been surrendered to the  Qaeda-linked group earlier this week, according to US Central Command, which is in charge of efforts against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“If accurate, the report of New Syrian Forces members providing equipment to Al-Nusra Front is very concerning and a violation of Syria train-and-equip program guidelines,” CENTCOM spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder said.

The acknowledgement that Syrian militants may have handed over military gear runs counter to earlier Pentagon statements denying reports that some US-trained fighters had either defected or given away equipment.

The incident highlights problems facing the US-led coalition’s $500 million program to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight IS as an alternative to using US ground troops, which the Obama administration is unwilling to do.

The program, which began in January, is aiming to train some 5,400 fighters a year for three years, but so far only a fraction of that number has taken part amid problems finding suitable candidates.