Retired US general John Allen, who is leading the international effort against Islamic State extremists, said Wednesday that the training of Syrian rebels would be a slow process.
“It is going to take a while, it could take years, actually,” Allen said in an interview with CNN. “We have to manage our expectations.”
The US Congress has approved the training and equipping of moderate Syrian rebel units as part of an international plan to defeat the Islamic State (IS) organization in Iraq and Syria. Allen said the training of Syrian rebels was already under way.
“The process of getting that unfolded is occurring right now with the idea of locating training camps and beginning to accumulate the Syrian elements that will go into those training camps,” he said.
The United States, which leads the international coalition, initially launched strikes in Iraq on August 8 and widened its campaign on September 23 to include Syria, where IS has its headquarters. Allen said the international response has provided an opportunity for new partnerships.
“It’s actually an important moment where so many countries from so many different backgrounds share that view, that this is an opportunity to create partnership across those lines of effort that can achieve real effect,” he said.
During the interview, Allen spoke about Iran’s role in tackling IS fighters.
“We’re not going to contemplate a bilateral coalition with Iran,” he said, but went on to add that the Iranians “have a role to play, and where that role is helpful, we’ll encourage it.”