Why the U.S. can't build an opposition army in Syria

Part of the problem is logistical. According to Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, identifying and vetting Syrians able to participate—and getting them to the camps—are enormous challenges.

“There’s another difficulty, which is exfiltrating these individuals out of Syria,” he told the AP. “Syria is a very complex, very dangerous place, multiple armed sides battling each other.”

But even if these logistical hurdles were overcome, the American plan for constructing an opposition army has major strategic flaws. The Obama administration has decided that defeating ISIS is more important than removing Bashar al-Assad, but refuses to cooperate with Assad—whose own forces are fighting against the Islamic State—in doing so. Syrian soldiers who join U.S.-funded military groups are barred from fighting against Assad, even though government troops are, in much of the country, a far greater menace than ISIS.