Pentagon: ‘We can’t control every situation that these fighters encounter’
September 28, 2015 12:50 pm
U.S. defense officials have confirmed that military equipment issued by the United States to Syrian rebel fighters has been funneled to an al Qaeda offshoot, raising new questions about the ways in which the Obama administration is safeguarding U.S. arms in the war-torn Middle Eastern country.
A commander in the New Syrian Forces (NSF), a group being trained and equipped by the United States, was found to have distributed at least 25 percent of the force’s U.S.-provided hardware to the Nusra Front, a terrorist organization affiliated with al Qaeda.
The equipment, which included U.S.-issued ammunition and pick-up trucks, was “surrendered” to a Nusra Front affiliate in order to ensure that the rebel fighters could pass freely through territories controlled by the terrorist group, the Pentagon said.
A Syrian opposition commander who was leading a group of NSF recruits “self-reported to coalition forces that under threat from al Nusra, they surrendered six trucks and ammunition to a suspected al Nusra Front intermediary to secure safe passage after being told that unless he surrendered some of his NSF equipment, his unit would be ambushed en route to their new location,” according to Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, who provided the Washington Free Beacon on Monday with a timeline of what took place.
“We will look at what we can do to prevent such a situation in the future, but given the complexity of the battlefield it is not possible to eliminate all risk,” Ryder added. “We are using all means at our disposal to look into what exactly happened and determine the appropriate response.”
The arms exchange occurred after a group of around 70 NSF graduates crossed into Syria on the morning of Sept. 20, according to the Pentagon.