“Good” news: there are once again more than five U.S. trained fighters operating in Syria. A second batch of graduates—another 70 in total—from the much-ridiculed $500 million training program has made its way across the Turkish border near Aleppo in an armed convoy, with the U.S. providing air cover. The bad news, however, is that they were immediately detained by the Islamist Shamiya Front, a Turkish-backed anti-ISIS rebel outfit. A Shamiya Front spokesman announced the outfit was only briefly questioned, but a spokesman for the U.S.-trained outfit said the situation remained tense.
The training program follies illustrate that the failures of the Obama Administration in foreign policy haven’t been the product of some nefarious scheme but rather the inevitable result of the Administration’s making it up as it goes along. Loudly-announced plans to spend half a billion to arm and train rebels foundered on the grounds that there were few moderate rebels left to train, and even fewer cared to join a program that wasn’t fighting Assad. After the program failed to turn out more than 60 men (some of whom were captured in July), it was due to be shut down. Now, apparently, it’s still on—and men are still being captured.
But at least in this matter of the “30th Division”, there’s some dark comedy to be had. Elsewhere, our clumsy improvisation could lead to much greater trouble. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter began direct talks with his Russian counterpart Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu last Friday, and while the goal of the talks was initially limited to ensuring that Russian and U.S. forces did not attack each other by mistake in Syria, Obama Administration officials openly hope they would eventually draw Russia into a political dialogue over the future of the country. We hope someone somewhere has a better-thought-out plan for those talks than anyone apparently did for the Syria training program.