US begins training of ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State

The US has reportedly begun its long-awaited training programme for “moderate” Syrian rebels who Washington hopes will fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

The US is wary of providing arms and training to Islamist rebels who may oppose Isil but also have anti-Western sentiments and has spent months trying to vet the backgrounds of potential fighters.

The training is expected to take up to a year, meaning that US-trained rebel fighters may not reach the battlefield in Syria until the summer of 2016.

The US hopes to train around 15,000 rebels over the course of three years. Fighters will be trained in groups of 300 and are likely to arrive in Syria in piecemeal rather than as a single force.

The CIA said late last year that it believed Isil has between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters…