Senator: Obama wants $100K per rebel

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) blasted the president’s plan to train and arm moderate Syrian opposition forces against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as Congress prepares for a vote to authorize it. 

He said the plan, which would cost $500 million to train 5,000 rebels for a year, would essentially cost $100,000 per rebel. 

“So that is $100,000 per person that we are supposed to do,” he said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday. 

{mosads}Manchin said the plan was risky and that trained rebels could turn against the Assad regime in Syria, instead of ISIS fighters as intended. 

“I have a hard time understanding why all of a sudden we are going to convince these 5,000 to turn and fight ISIS, who is fighting the same religious war that they are fighting against the Assad regime,” he said. 

He argued efforts over the past decade to train Iraqi forces had failed and noted that U.S. equipment supplied to them has been captured by ISIS. 

“And when you start looking at what we’ve spent, almost $20 billion trying to build up a 280,000-person army in Iraq, and the first time they were tested, they turned tail and ran, turned over the arsenal that we equipped them with, now it’s being used against us,” he said. 

“The only thing that I know that we are short of is that training and those weapons will probably be used against us at some time in the future if everything that has happened in the past,” he added. 

He also said the U.S. has spent enough money and lives in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. 

“And then when you look at what we have done in that part of the world … $1.6 trillion to date and growing; 4,400 lives lost in Iraq; 36,000 wounded; 2,200 lives in Afghanistan and 21,000 wounded,” he said.

Manchin said he couldn’t sell the plan to his constituents. 

“You can’t sell this stuff. And no one believes the outcome will be any different,” he said. 

House and Senate leaders are planning to attach a measure authorizing the plan to a spending bill lawmakers will likely vote on this week before they go on recess. Manchin said lawmakers should stay longer and debate the plan as a separate measure. 

“We should stay here, and it should be separated. It’s a big enough issue for us to have a policy discussion and not tied into a funding discussion that we’re going to have at the [continuing resolution],” he said.  

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