The US Defense Department announced Monday that it will allocate salaries for the new militants who are fighting the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) takfiri group, describing them as “moderate Syrians”.
“We can confirm that Syrian train-and-equip members will receive stipends while members of the program,” said Navy Cmdr. Elissa Smith, a Pentagon spokeswoman.
Training of the first group of about 90 fighters began last month. They will be paid salaries of $250 to $400 per month, depending on their skills, performance and leadership.
The Pentagon expects to have 3,000 fighters trained by year’s end, Smith said. The goal for 12 months is 5,400. She declined to say how many are currently being trained.
“For operational security, we will not announce when coalition-trained Syrian opposition forces enter into Syria,” she said, adding that about 6,000 Syrians have volunteered for the training program, more than 4,000 of them awaiting to be vetted.
The move comes after top defense officials acknowledged that the program is very slow and experiencing difficulties in finding and vetting fighters.
The US signed an agreement with Turkey in February regarding the train-and-equip program, and Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan have long said they would contribute.