US chose 400 militants to fight ISIS in Syria

The US military has announced it has selected the first 400 "moderate" Syrian militants to be trained to battle against ISIL ...

The US military has announced it has selected the first 400 "moderate" Syrian militants to be trained to battle against ISIL terrorists in the Arab country, with a target date set as early as September for them to join the fight.

The Pentagon said on Friday that US military and intelligence agencies are currently conducting background checks on these men, which is is part of a US plan to train and equip more than 5,000 militants for Syria, where a four-year foreign-sponsored insurgency has already left more than 210,000 people dead.

The background checks are expected to include fingerprints, retina scans as well as other biometric measurements to find out if any of the candidates are on terror watch lists.

“If all goes well, we expect they’ll be finished with training in late summer or early fall,”
said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.

According to Warren, a pre-screening will be done lasting one week and that will be followed by deeper background checks lasting over six weeks.

The 400 militants, who have been “identified by name”, were chosen from among 2,200 and the US is currently “compiling big data” on them, he explained.

He noted that the 2,200 militants were recommended mainly by “tribal leaders and Free Syrian Army leaders we have been dealing with for some time,” referring to the foreign-backed insurgent group operating in Syria.

The background probes for the other 1,800 will begin in the near future, he added.

The announcement was the first official statement about the US-led campaign to equip and train Syrians in fight against the ISIL terrorists four months after Congress approved a budget of $500 million on the program.

Warren said that over 350 American troops have arrived in Turkey and other neighboring countries in preparation for the training.

The United States plans to finish the training of 3,000 Syrians by the end of 2015 and an additional 5,000 by next April, he noted.

Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since March 2011. The United States and its regional allies - especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey - are supporting the militants operating inside the country.

The ISIL terrorists, who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, now control large parts of Syria and Iraq.

On February 19, Washington and Ankara inked an agreement to train and arm “moderate” militants in Syria.

The two sides said the militants will fight both the Syrian government and the ISIL terrorists.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic said in February that Ankara hopes the training deal will strengthen the beleaguered insurgents fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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