WASHINGTON, District of Columbia—In a follow-up to the announcement on Friday that the Pentagon would revamp its failed program that was intended to train and support moderate Syrian rebel groups, Department of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced in a press conference this morning that the Pentagon had identified a group of moderate Syrian rebels that it would be supporting.
Mr. Carter identified the group as the Syrian Samba Brigade of São Paulo, which is currently training in Brazil. He said preliminary discussions are ongoing regarding training, logistics, and transportation to get the moderate rebels to Syria.
In the Friday announcement, Mr. Carter had reluctantly acknowledged that the Pentagon’s over $500 million program to train and equip moderate rebel fighters had been “a complete, total, colossal, abysmal failure” and that only 60 fighters had been trained at a cost of about $10 million per fighter.
He also revealed that several coalitions of U.S.-trained rebels operating in Syria had surrendered their “high-end” weapons to hostile forces to avoid capture when they came under duress in combat.
Mr. Carter touted the São Paulo rebel group as the beginning of the “reset on the program” that would provide better result and not “waste American taxpayers’ money so wildly.”
“We think this is the start of how we originally envisioned the program on the drawing board,” he said.
“We have pretty high confidence that this is a really, truly moderate group that will not willy-nilly hand their weapons over to groups hostile to the U.S. and run away when things turn south.”
Mr. Carter said the Pentagon had put the Syrian Samba Brigade of São Paulo through “a much more thoroughly vetting process” than previous groups.
According to Mr. Carter, the Syrian Samba Brigade of São Paulo is currently training at camps in Praia Vermelha, Barra da Tijuca, Copacabana, and Ipanema in Brazil.
Annis Minor-DeMinimus reports on military matters.