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Policy Analysis

Research Notes 36

In Pursuit of Good Ideas: The Syria Train-and-Equip Program

Lt. Col. J. Stewart Welch, USAF, and CDR Kevin Bailey, USN

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September 2016


This study by two military experts explores the evolution of the initial Syria train-and-equip program and offers recommendations should Washington decide to pursue future iterations.

Training indigenous Syrians to fight on their home soil has been considered a central element of overall U.S. strategy to counter the Islamic State, but it has proven an extremely daunting task. The first Syria train-and-equip program was hampered by excessive policy restrictions, roundly criticized by many as ill conceived, and deemed a "total failure" by Congress before being suspended in October 2015 by the Defense Department. This research note by two military experts explores the evolution of the initial Syria train-and-equip program and offers recommendations should Washington decide to pursue future iterations, as it is imperative that policymakers and military strategists prevent a repeat of the mismatch between policy constraints and military objectives that doomed the original efforts.

THE AUTHORS

Lt Col J. Stewart Welch, USAF, is a KC-10 pilot and a former Joint Staff J5 Middle East strategist. He served as an Olmsted Scholar in Israel, where he earned a master’s degree in modern Middle Eastern history from Tel Aviv University.

CDR Kevin Bailey, USN, is a medical planner currently serving as the executive officer, 2nd Medical Battalion, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He holds a master’s degree in military operational art and science from the U.S. Air Force Command and Staff College.