Ex-Navy SEAL lawmaker: Syrian rebel effort a 'dismal failure'

Ex-Navy SEAL lawmaker: Syrian rebel effort a 'dismal failure'

A lawmaker who served as a Navy SEAL says the Pentagon's effort to train Syrian rebels against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is a "dismal failure."

“Sixty individuals is a dismal failure and it will never bring the ball to the field,” said Rep. Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeInterior's border surge puts more officers in unfamiliar role Not 'if' but 'when' is the next Deepwater Horizon spill? Former Wyoming GOP lawmaker mulling Senate bid to replace Enzi MORE (R-Mont.) on CNN's "The Situation Room" on Thursday about Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's revelation that the $500 million training program only had 60 recruits.

Zinke, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a former Navy SEAL Team 6 commander, said the training program highlighted the lack of a clear Syria strategy.

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“You look at Syria, one is, what's our policy in Syria? Are we going to support a regime change? Are we not? Are we going to cede the Syrian desert to ISIS, as we're presently doing?," he asked. "And if you're an ally of us, do you have the confidence we're going to be there? Am I shocked that there's 60? No, I'm not shocked. I'm disappointed."

Zinke also said the lackluster effort would lead Syrian allies to doubt the U.S. commitment to fighting ISIS.

He urged the public to view the issue “from a perspective of an individual that wants to be trained by the U.S.” 

“If they know that — if we're not going to stand with them, and you're going to be targeted, your family's going to be killed because we're not going to be there for you, then why would you be trained by the U.S.?” he asked. 

Airstrikes and the rebel training group are the core elements of President Obama's strategy to eliminate ISIS. However, Carter’s admission and recent battlefield setbacks in Iraq have sparked criticism of the administration’s approach.

The Pentagon has said that it is ramping up the training program and that the recruits are subject to a rigorous screening process beforehand to weed out any potential terror threats.

Zinke said the current overall approach is not enough.

“Quite frankly, our policy of air operations alone and very limited strikes, it is not going to work, it hasn't worked," he said.

He called for the U.S. to directly supply arms to Kurdish security forces, known as the Peshmerga, who have been battling ISIS in northern Iraq.