The U.S. campaign to create a new ground force to fight the Islamic State appears to be a flop. The program, designed to train some fifteen thousand Syrians in the course of three years—at a cost of five hundred million dollars—has only a handful of fighters in Syria. “We’re talking four or five,” General Lloyd J. Austin III told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday. Austin heads Central Command, which runs U.S. military operations in the Middle East and South Asia, a position made famous by former General David Petraeus. Austin conceded that the rebel program is “off to a slow start.”
“That’s a joke,” Kelly Ayotte, the New Hampshire Republican, responded.