PENTAGON - The United States airdropped 50 tons of small arms ammunition Sunday to rebels in northern Syria, a U.S. defense official told VOA.
The move supports the Pentagon’s recent decision to “pause” its failed Syrian rebel train-and-equip program. Instead of training and equipping moderate rebel fighters outside of Syria, White House officials announced Friday the program would ramp up materiel support to trusted units fighting on Syrian battlefields, while training only rebel leaders in Turkey.
The airdrop reached “Syrian Arab groups whose leaders appropriately were vetted by the United States and have been fighting to remove ISIL,” said anti-Islamic State coalition spokesman Colonel Steve Warren. He would not give further details about the groups or their locations in Syria due to “operational security.”
A U.S. defense official described the airdrop as a new “normal” occurrence that coalition forces would continue to conduct “as needed.”
Warren said the airdrop was conducted by U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft and, "All aircraft exited the drop area safely."
The drop is a reminder of an operation last year when U.S. forces airdropped supplies to Syrian Kurds battling Islamic State forces for the town of Kobani. The group was able to successfully repel Islamic State fighters from the town.
During the past several months, tens of thousands of coalition-supported Syrian rebels have driven Islamic State forces from strongholds along the Turkish border.
“This airdrop seeks to build on the success those forces have had clearing ISIL from Syrian territory,” Warren said.
Coalition forces continued to strike Islamic State targets Monday in Syria, destroying terrorist tactical units near al-Hasakah and Washiya. The coalition conducted 18 strikes in Iraq, including near Bayji, Fallujah and Mosul, according to the U.S. Central Command, which overseas US forces in the Middle East.
The coalition has conducted more than 7,000 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria.