Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently authorized an initial contingent of trainers and enablers to start establishing training sites to begin training and equipping moderate Syrian opposition, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby on Friday. The first “advanced detachment” of less than 100 troops was expected to arrive in the US Central Command theater “in the coming days” while “the next wave of several hundred trainers and enablers will deploy in the next few weeks,” added Kirby. “Things are moving in the right direction, but I want to stress … active recruiting has not taken place,” said Kirby. The recruiting and vetting process is expected to take three to five months while the training itself will take between six and eight months, he said. In addition, the fourth and final training site for Iraqi forces is now operational, noted Kirby. Some 100 Kurdish Peshmerga began training with US and coalition forces at the Irbil site on Friday, even though there is still some “infrastructure work” that needs to be done, said Kirby. An additional 3,500 Iraqi forces are being trained at the other three sites in al Asad, Bismayah, and Camp Taji near Baghdad, he added. A full training cycle in Iraq is expected to take about six weeks. (Kirby transcript.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.