Obama Approves $800 Million Aid To ‘Moderate’ Syrians
President Barack Obama has signed the Pentagon funding bill giving $800 million in aid to both “moderate rebels” in Syria and the Kiev regime. Obama also vowed to work around provisions blocking the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2016 on the eve of Thanksgiving, a four-day holiday for most Americans. He previously vetoed the $612 billion bill in a well-publicized ceremony in October, arguing that the lawmakers dodged the spending limits by shifting money into the warfighting slush fund.
Although Congress then trimmed the bill down to $607 billion, the cuts did not affect the $300 million aid to the Ukrainian government, or the “zombie” surveillance blimp program that has cost nearly $3 billion so far. It also left almost $500 million dedicated to arming and training “moderate rebels” in Syria – a program the Pentagon had already abandoned.
Originally intended to produce a 15,000-strong force by 2016, the program ended up with fewer than 200 fighters, who never even got to fight Islamic State militants. After training in Turkey and entering Syria, the first group of US-trained fighters was ambushed and captured by the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra in August. The second group surrendered to Al-Nusra in September, turning over all their US-supplied weapons and equipment. Only “four or five” US-trained fighters were operating in Syria, Central Command head General Lloyd Austin told shocked lawmakers on September 16.
Obama did not insist on scrapping the program, even though he told ‘60 Minutes’ that he had been “skeptical from the get-go” about its prospects for success. More