WASHINGTON - Only a handful of US-trained Syrian rebels are still fighting in Syria, a top US general told Congress on Wednesday, a stark admission of setbacks to a fledgling military program that critics have already pronounced a failure.
The US military began training in May for up to 5,400 fighters a year, in what was seen as a test of President Barack Obama's strategy of having local partners combat Islamic State militants and keep US troops off the front lines.
But the program was troubled from the start, with some of the first class of less than 60 fighters coming under attack from al-Qaida's Syria wing, Nusra Front, in their battlefield debut. Some were captured and killed while others scattered.
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