The U.S. military is planning on sending over 400 soldiers to train more than 5,000 Syrian rebels each year, a U.S. official announced Friday.
Pentagon spokesperson Colonel Steve Warren told Reuters the rebels will be trained to fight the Islamic State group, though a training site hasn't been confirmed. Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have all offered to host the training site.
The move was first reported by news website Defense One, which stated the Pentagon hopes to train 5,400 Syrian rebel fighters each year for three years.
Warren stated the number of Syrian fighters to be taken aboard in this first phase hasn't been confirmed. According to Defense One, the training program's biggest hurdle is establishing a vetting process for potential recruits.
“(I)dentifying rebel fighters who don’t have ties to Jabhat al-Nusra, the main al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, is extremely difficult for a Pentagon with limited resources on the ground,” Defense One reported.
Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front, is an al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate and one of the largest militant groups fighting President Bashar Assad's government.
However, the Nusra Front is just one of dozens of militant groups operating in Syria – many of which have been accused of human rights abuses or labeled as terrorists by the United States. Fighters from Syria have also been labeled as a major security threat by a number of Western nations.
Both the U.K. and Australia have both imposed travel restrictions to the Middle Eastern nation aimed at stopping their citizens from traveling to Syria as volunteer fighters over claims they could pose a domestic terror threat when they return home.
Even many fighters once aligned with Western-backed factions in the Syria conflict may have now joined the ranks of U.S. foes, like the Islamic State group.
“In the east of Syria, there is no Free Syrian Army any longer. All Free Syrian Army people (there) have joined the Islamic State,” a senior Islamic State group commander told the Washington Post in August 2014.
Thousands of Free Syria Army fighters have been trained in Jordanian camps with U.S. support since at least 2013.