US may train Syrian rebels to guide air raids: Pentagon

WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES- The United States will provide basic military training and equipment to Syrian rebels and may eventually instruct them on how to call in air strikes against Islamic State jihadists, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
But for the moment, the training will focus on fundamentals and not the more complicated task of directing US-led warplanes to a particular target, the skilled job of a forward air controller, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters.

"The main purpose of the training is basic military structure and skills," Kirby said.
"I can't rule out that at some point, that we might find it useful for them to have the ability to help assist with targeting on the ground," he said.
"But I really want to walk you away from this notion that we're going to be producing Syrian forward air controllers. That is not the case."
About 1,000 US troops are due to deploy to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to start training "moderate" Syrian opposition forces to take on the IS group in Syria. The instruction is due to start in mid-March and about 100 American trainers have already arrived in the region, according to Kirby.
The Pentagon plans to deliver pick-up trucks, light machine guns, ammunition and radios to the moderate rebels, officials told AFP.
In the recent battle for the northern Syrian town of Kobane, US aircraft were helped by Kurdish forces on the ground who relayed information about their own location and the position of IS fighters, Kirby said.
But he refuted some reports that suggested the Kurdish militia were acting as forward air controllers with the training and laser equipment to pinpoint the precise location of a target to a jet overhead.
"In Kobane, we didn't have, you know, trained forward air controllers on the ground there.
"What we did have eventually, and it took a little time, was some reliable sources inside Kobane, anti-ISIL forces, who had a good working knowledge of not just the town, but where ISIL was on any given day," said Kirby, using an alternative acronym for the IS group.
In the US-led fight against the IS militants, American commanders have placed a top priority on pushing back the extremists in Iraq first, while warning it could take years before a moderate Syrian rebel force is ready to make headway against the jihadists in Syria.

Thursday, February 19th 2015

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