October 09, 2015

Udall Statement on Decision to End Train and Equip Program in Syria

WASHINGTON - Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, welcomed news that the Obama administration has ended the Pentagon's $500 million program to train and equip Syrian rebels. Last week, Udall, along with U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), called on U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Ash Carter, U.S. Department of State Secretary John Kerry and Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan to end the Syria Train and Equip Program.

"I am pleased that the administration has heeded our call to end the train and equip program. Not only was it an inefficient use of taxpayer dollars, but it was endangering Americans and risked further escalating the conflict in Syria.

"Last year, as Congress discussed the Syria Train and Equip Program, I shared my skepticism about our ability to ensure the effectiveness of efforts to train Syrian forces, and guarantee that U.S.-issued weapons and equipment would not ultimately end up in the hands of the very forces we aim to defeat. My concerns deepened further as evidence emerged about the meager number of fighters that the program trained successfully, and in particular, over recent revelations that some of the fighters we equipped have turned over their ammunition and trucks to the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate.

"The situation in Syria is tragic, and we must ensure that any American efforts help rather than cause additional harm. I'm grateful for the hard work of the U.S. military leaders who implemented this program. We now have an opportunity to reevaluate our strategy in Syria and find a new path forward that supports our interests in the region, degrades ISIL and helps bring stability to the region, and addresses the plight of the more than 4 million Syrian refugees."

Udall raised his concerns about efforts to train and equip Syrian forces at a hearing last year (Udall's remarks begin at 2:19:26): http://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/united-states-strategy-to-defeat-the-islamic-state-in-iraq-and-the-levant