The top U.S. military commander for the Middle East admitted Wednesday that only “four or five” U.S.-trained fighters remain on the battlefield in Syria, leading to accusations from lawmakers that the program is a “joke” and “total failure.”
Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of the U.S. Central Command, addressed the state of the so-called “train and equip” mission in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The original goal for the first year was to train roughly 5,400 fighters to take on the Islamic State. But the first group of 54 U.S.-trained fighters was attacked by a Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda, which killed and captured several of them and sent others fleeing.
For the first time Wednesday, the U.S. military acknowledged hardly any remain.
“It’s a small number. The ones that are in the fight … we’re talking four or five,” Austin told lawmakers, admitting the military will not reach its training goal this year.
The admission inflamed criticism that’s been simmering for months.
Read More: Commander admits size of US-trained Syrian fighting force at ‘4 or 5’ | Fox News