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Pentagon: Syrian Rebel Training Likely Soon

FILE - U.S. Marines monitor a multinational military training exercise in Quweira, 186 miles south of Amman, Jordan, June 18, 2013.

The Pentagon said Friday that after months of preparation, the training of Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State forces could start sometime within the next four to six weeks.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said the U.S. military had identified about 1,500 Syrian rebels to take part in the training.

“Of those 1,500, more than 100 of them have been screened," he said. "No derogatory information has been found to date with respect to that. So that process is ongoing, and that’s an important first step.”

The training will start small, with roughly 200 to 300 trainees per class. Kirby said the Pentagon hoped to train up to 5,000 or 5,500 over the course of the year. That number could rise, he said, if the recruiting pool is there and the screening process is efficient.

Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are hosting the training sites for the rebels.

The U.S. has already trained thousands of Iraqi forces to fight Islamic State and is training thousands more in sites across Iraq.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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