WASHINGTON, DC—Representative Eliot L. Engel, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement on the reported suspension of the train-and-equip program in Syria:
"I’m disappointed by reports that the Pentagon is suspending its Syria train-and-equip program, though in my view, the approach adopted by the Administration was the wrong way to respond to the reality of the crisis.
"More than three years ago, I introduced the Free Syria Act to arm and train the moderate Syrian opposition to the Assad regime. When the program was finally put in place earlier this year, I disagreed with restricting the training to those fighting ISIS rather than also training moderates to confront the Assad regime and destroy the root cause of extremism's growth in Syria.
"American trainers and their partners did their best given the parameters of their mission. But the enormity of fighting a two-front battle against brutal extremists and a ruthless regime—without the proper support—proved too much for the nascent opposition group.
"As the crisis in Syria enters a new phase, as Russia targets the moderate opposition, and as Iranian ground troops amass on the Syrian border, we need a new strategy in Syria to safeguard our interests and prevent those who are fighting for a free Syria from losing all hope in American leadership."