UPDATE 1345 GMT: The office of General John Allen, President Obama’s envoy for the campaign against the Islamic State, has walked back his reported statement that “there is no formal coordination with the Free Syrian Army”:
General Allen met with a number of representatives from across the spectrum of the Syrian opposition including key military figures. In all the meetings, General Allen was clear that the US was committed to building upon the existing military capacity of the vetted elements of the Free Syrian Army.
He was also clear about the need for the political elements of the moderate Syrian opposition to become as coherent as possible as they will be essential to the long term political outcomes in Syria.
The Obama Administration has confirmed reports from reliable sources that it will not work with Syria’s insurgents — even the Free Syrian Army which it nominally supports — in the campaign against the Islamic State.
President Obama’s envoy for the campaign, General John Allen, told reporters on Wednesday, “At this point, there is no formal coordination with the FSA.” Instead, the US will create a “credible field force” from scratch, while strengthening the political opposition, Allen said.
The Obama Administration has said it will support the training and equipping of 5,000 fighters, but the US military has explained that the effort will take at least several months. Allen reiterated:
It’s not going to happen immediately. We’re working to establish the training sites now, and we’ll ultimately go through a vetting process and beginning to bring the trainers and the fighters in to begin to build that force out.
The envoy also reinforced statements from US officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, that Washington will accept the loss of territory — including the Kurdish center of Kobane — to the Islamic State in the short-term: “The emergency in Iraq right now is foremost in our thinking.”
Allen’s confirmation has been accompanied by a PR campaign by the Obama Administration portraying the insurgents as unreliable. Earlier this week, unnamed US officials fed the summary of a supposed “CIA report” to The New York Times, which headlined, “C.I.A. Study of Covert Aid Fueled Skepticism About Helping Syrian Rebels”:
The still-classified review, one of several C.I.A. studies commissioned in 2012 and 2013 in the midst of the Obama administration’s protracted debate about whether to wade into the Syrian civil war, concluded that many past attempts by the agency to arm foreign forces covertly had a minimal impact on the long-term outcome of a conflict.
Sources, including Free Syrian Army officers, have said that the US military has not informed them about any operations since American airstrikes in Syria began last month.
The lack of coordination has meant there is no ground support for the American attacks.
The US has insisted instead that Turkey provide troops for the defense of Kobane, the Kurdish center in northern Syria besieged by the Islamic State. Ankara has responded that it will not intervene unless it is part of an international force, and Syrian Kurds have rejected the intervention as a Turkish “occupation”.