US will use psych evaluations to screen Syrian Rebels

In this Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014 photo, a Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighter stands in the rubble of Kobani, Syria. Here, Kurdish fighters backed by small numbers of Iraqi peshmerga forces and Syrian rebels, are battling what they see as an existential battle against the militants who swept into their town in mid-September as part of a summer blitz that saw the group seize large chunks of territory in Syria and neighboring Iraq. By Jake Simkin, AP

Using a screening program that was created by US Central command, the United States military is intensifying the vetting process used for Syrian rebels hoping to receive training from American forces.

Sources speaking to the Washington Post stated that although the United States has long-standing protocols for screening foreign national forces, this new process “is unique to Syria, because we’re going to work with folks that we want the company once we employ them. So vetting and screening becomes even more important.”
New protocols include collecting biometric data on the trainees, checking names against both American and foreign intelligence databases, and even doing background information checks within an individual’s home region or community.

One of the main reasons for adopting this new program is an attempt by the US to avoid any repetition of history – specifically, when America backed the Afghan Mujahedeen in the 1980s, only to later become the target of many of those same Afghans in the 1990s and 2000s.

The screening of these Syrian fighters is an attempt to ensure that this training is not infiltrated by any militants or radicals who have allegiances to extremist groups such as the Islamic State.

Policymakers have learned quite a bit since the 1980s about how to work with foreign forces, particularly in the last decade. In Iraq, American forces trained tribal fighters who later fought Al Qaeda, and in Afghanistan, the US military trained elite paramilitary Afghan units to battle Islamic militants.

Trainees will also be screened to test their responses under stress and when they are Fekete. One Central Command official said, “Those that clearly show or exhibit behavior that is not going to be compatible with where we want to go, then they’re removed from the program.”

The vetting process will be ongoing. Trainees who are successful will make gradual progress, attaining ever-increasingly higher training levels and weapons. Part of that training will be education about the international laws governing armed conflict. At any point, applicants who are judged to be unacceptable for any reason will face dismissal from the program.

Moreover, only applicants who are judged to be of moderate ideological temperament are accepted into the trainee program, because the US wants to train fighters whose objectives will remain aligned with American interests in the future, not just for the moment.

As is common at this level of the military, all sources only spoke under a condition requiring the strictest confidentiality.

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