Four or five.
That is the number of US-trained Syrian “moderate” soldiers who are currently in the field against the Islamic State forces.
Not four or five divisions. Not four or five brigades. Not even four for five hundred troops.
So far, the U.S. has spent $42 million on the training and deployment of the Obama Brigade. At the Obama Brigade’s current level of manpower, that comes to between eight and ten million dollars a soldier. Not much bang for the buck.
Four or five guys.
The source of this statistic is Major General Lloyd Austin, Commander of the US Central Command and, in that capacity, Field Marshall Supreme of the American war against the holy warriors of the Islamic State.
On Wednesday, Austin confided this fact to an astonished Senate Arms Services Committee. The gob-smacked chairman, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that in thirty years in the Senate he had, “never heard testimony like this---never.”
Four or five soldiers. Somewhere between the Beatles and the starting lineup of the Knicks. That is what remains of Obama’s volunteer Syrian army, the mighty war machine the president proposed to equip, train and unleash on the tens of thousands of Muslim holy warriors who control large swaths of Syria and Iraq.
The idea was to start with 5,400 men. Half a billion dollars was budgeted by the Department of Defense. The Pentagon set a timetable—the force would be trained within one year. A call went out to moderate Syrian patriots to take up arms and fight for freedom.
There wasn’t exactly a stampede to the recruiting office. In fact, nearly no one with even minimal qualification showed up. Among those who did, most were judged to be extremist security risks. The army didn’t go out of its way to make this known. After all, troop numbers are a military secret.
The first hint that the Barack Brigade was not a great success came in July, when the first contingent of volunteers hit the battlefield. There were 54 in all—just 1% of the Pentagon’s target number. As Under Secretary of Defense Christine Wormuth told the Senate Committee on Wednesday, the number was “smaller than expected.” If there is a presidential medal for understatement, the Deputy Secretary deserves one.
These Syrian moderates did not make up in quality what they lacked in quantity or motivation. Shortly after arriving at the front, most of them scattered. Some defected to Turkey. Others went over to a rebel commander who didn’t want to fight against jihadists. A number went home for the Ramadan holiday and didn’t bother returning.
On July 31, this reduced band of freedom fighters came under fire from guerillas of the Al Nusra Front, an Al Qaeda affiliate, in northern Syria. Overwhelmed, and befuddled, they were rescued by repeated US airstrikes.
This military fiasco could not be covered up. The entire Middle East had been on notice for months that the Yanks (or at least their proxies) were coming. There were skeptics in the region--Obama does not exactly have a stellar record of living up to his threats—but even the most hardcore scoffers were shocked (or, in the case of the holy warriors, delighted) by this demonstration of American impotence.
So far, the US has spent $42 million on the training and deployment of the Obama Brigade. At the Obama Brigade’s current level of manpower, that comes to between eight and ten million dollars a soldier. Not much bang for the buck.
The Pentagon, which still has $458,000,000 on hand, is going back to the drawing board. Maybe should bring in a recruiting consultant from ISIS, which is said to have signed up about two hundred American Muslims. I’m pretty sure the jihadis aren’t paying their volunteers anything like ten million dollars apiece.
I don’t know if General Austin is going to keep his job at the head of Central Command, and his position as Field Marshall Supreme of the Obama Brigade. But as long as he’s on duty, he ought to at least find for sure how many troops he has.
Four or five.
Zev Chafets is a Fox News contributor. His latest book is "Remembering Who We Are: A Treasury of Conservative Commencement Addresses" (Sentinel 2015).