US paying and training Syrian rebels

WASHINGTON - Syrian rebels receiving US military training to battle Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants are being paid US$250 to US$400 (S$530) per month, depending on their skills, performance and leadership position, the Pentagon said.

It was not immediately clear how many Syrian rebels were currently being paid. Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Defence Department spokesman, said last week that up to 200 Syrian fighters were undergoing training. A further 1,500 have completed the necessary screening.

Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said last month Syrian fighters participating in the US-led mission would receive "some compensation", but he gave no figures.

Navy Commander Elissa Smith, a Pentagon spokesman, said on Monday that trainees received a stipend.

Some 6,000 Syrians have volunteered to participate in the US effort to train and equip a politically moderate Syrian military force.

Col Warren said last week the effort had moved more slowly than expected due to complications vetting volunteers and taking them out of Syria for the training. Navy Captain Scott Rye, a spokesman for the Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-Syria, said a number had quit or been excluded, including a group who left together about 10 days ago.

Reasons for leaving included "everything from volunteers showing up without ID (identity) papers to being underage, to being unfit for training", he said. He declined to say how many fighters had left in total, but said: "The group that quit all at the same time after training for several weeks - this was unusual, and I would deem it a one-time event."

He denied a news report that the group withdrew because its members did not want to sign a contract agreeing not to fight the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

He said while US officials had been clear the programme was to train fighters to combat ISIS, the only document participants had to sign was one committing them to promote respect for human rights and the rule of law, a mandate issued by the US Congress.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2015, with the headline 'US paying and training Syrian rebels'. Print Edition | Subscribe