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The Pentagon has carried out two showpiece train-and-equip programs in recent years — a lauded effort in Ukraine and a fizzled effort in Syria.

The difference between the two comes down to having a clear idea of the political goals and sending the right equipment, according to military experts.

The goal in Ukraine is clear: to push Russia out of Eastern Ukraine and restore internationally recognized borders that were established after the Cold War. To do so, the U.S. is working with a legitimate government and its organized military, said Chris Harmer, a defense analyst with the Institute for the Study of War.

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