BEIRUT (Reuters) – The United States does not expect Syrian rebels it plans to train to fight Islamic State militants to also take on President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, but sees them as a crucial part of a political solution to end the war, a senior US official said.
The United States, which is leading an international coalition bombing Islamic State in Syria, has said it wants to train and equip “moderate” rebels to fight the militant group which has seized tracts of land in Syria and neighbouring Iraq.
Asked whether those rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) units would ultimately go on to fight Syrian government forces, John Allen, the US representative to the coalition, told the Asharq al-Awsat daily:
“No. What we would like to see is for the FSA and the forces that we will ultimately generate, train and equip to become the credible force that the Assad government ultimately has to acknowledge and recognise.”
“There is not going to be a military solution here,” he added, in comments published at the weekend on the newspaper’s English language website.
The Free Syrian Army is a term used to describe dozens of armed groups fighting to overthrow Assad but with little or no central command. They have been widely outgunned by militant insurgents such as Islamic State.
Rebel fighters have voiced frustration with the US-led approach to fighting Islamic State. They say Washington and its Arab allies are too focussed on quashing the militant group at the expense of confron-ting Syrian government forces, which many rebels still see as the ultimate enemy.