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Pentagon To Change Tactics In How It Supports Syrian Rebels

The Pentagon has said it will abandon its program to train a new force of moderate Syrian rebels and focus instead on providing support to established opposition groups already fighting against the Islamic State extremist group inside Syria.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has directed the Pentagon to provide weaponry to "a select group of vetted leaders and their units" to eventually make a "concerted push" into IS territory, a Pentagon statement said.

Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth told reporters the Pentagon will provide "basic kinds of equipment" to leaders of the groups, not "higher-end" arms like antitank rockets and manpads.

The Pentagon acknowledged that its $500 million program, which involved training individual recruits and returning them to the battlefield faced "significant challenges."

Wormuth said the program -- that trained only 60 fighters, falling far short of the original goal of 5,400 -- was "a very, very complex mission."

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa