In an article published on October 9, 2015, the New York Times announced the demise of the Pentagon's effort to train an anti-Assad military force. Both through testimony before Congress and from numerous other news sources, however, the program was long known to be a sad, running joke.
While an initial commitment of US$500million to train a paltry five thousand troops sounds ludicrously exorbitant, US$100,000 per man is actually not an unrealistic figure, given the unquestioned challenges Pentagon teams face in attempting to train a force from scratch on the edge of a battle area. After all, in 2007, it cost approximately US$52,000 to train a single recruit for the US Marine Corps, in an established and thoroughly secure environment.
What doomed the US effort to abject failure, however, had nothing to do with a lack of money, nor a lack of talent. US trainers from various armed services - some special forces, some not - have long experience in training indigenous forces in challenging environments. No, what doomed this effort from the start comes down to something cruelly basic -- a lack of clear, competent, leadership at the top.
The foreign policy of the Obama administration has been a failure almost Homeric in its scale; "Biblical" is not too strong a descriptor.
Almost from its inception, the current administration's foreign policy has been one of "out-Bushing Bush" in the Middle East. While the Bush administration's justification for attacking Iraq was thin, at best, there was absolutely no justification for his actively promoting the current chaos by capitalizing on the "Arab Spring" to destabilize regimes in the region, friend and for alike (such as Egypt). But most egregiously - and mysteriously - is Obama's obsession with Bashar al-Assad, of Syria (to say nothing of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi).
Until opposition Syrian parties were encouraged by the West - led by Mr. Obama - to attempt to topple the Syrian strongman, Syria proved no threat to anyone other than Israel...and seemed to be on his way to mending fences with them, albeit in small ways.
The result of a long series of shockingly poor decisions on the part of the Obama administration, led directly to the rise of "ISIL" ("Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant "), arguably the most savage, brutal and vicious terrorist group in living memory. "ISIL" has tried vigorously to spark an all-out, internecine war within Islam, attempting to bring Iran into the conflict as an active party, which would guarantee a widening of the war in ISIL's favor.
This has also led directly to the current, and dangerous, spectacle of Russian troops attacking the so-called "ISIL" group vigorously - if a bit roughly around the edges - while the US military's trainers stand impotently by as its recruits either defect to ISIL or Al Nusra, and its political leadership continually flip-flops in its sad and pathetic attempts to change its narrative, and the US and Russian air forces glare at each other from across radar screens, as if this was East Germany in 1983.
Perhaps inevitably, this has given rise to conspiracy theorist tales. In truth, it is difficult to deny the conspiracy crowd, because the alternative view is to accept that either the United States of America has a political and military leadership administration in office that is so vapid, so incompetent, they are incapable of simply toppling a government, or - far more frightening - that they are actively working to create the maximum entropy possible, up to and including the potential for the first combat deployment
of nuclear weapons since 1945.
For the moment, the Russians are on the attack, and seem to be having a significant impact on ISIL.
It is to be hoped that either they - by themselves or with the active aid of the United States - are capable of smashing a true evil back down to Phase 1 operations.
The fear is that they will not be able to destroy this artificially-created monster.