The Pentagon announced Monday that it has begun paying “moderate” Syrian rebels up to $400 per month to fight ISIS and eventually the Syrian government.

The program, deemed “critical” by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, aims to equip as many as 5,400 fighters within the next 12 months, reports USA Today.

According to Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith, roughly 6,000 Syrians have already expressed interest in the program, with more than half preparing to be vetted.

The program has reportedly taken months to move forward due to a lack of fighters willing to “adhere to laws of war and pledge to conduct themselves properly.”

The announcement raises several red flags given recently declassified Pentagon documents confirming Western governments’ regional support of al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization now deceptively labeled “moderate.”

In reality, as stated by USA Today, the alleged fight against ISIS, another group with documented ties to the West, is merely about creating an opposing force to bring down the Assad government.

“Their primary mission will be to protect their towns and villages from ISIL fighters,” USA Today states. “Eventually, they are also envisioned to become a viable opposition to the regime of President Bashar Assad.”

As admitted by retired four-star General Wesley Clark in 2007, the overthrow of Syria has been a goal of the Pentagon since at least 2001.

Clark’s comments dismantle the “civil war” talking point pushed by Western media, which alleges that so-called “rebels” spontaneously rose up against Assad without US influence.

Knowledge of this fact has even become a detriment to ISIS recruitment, as jihadists refuse to join the terror group due to its ties to the Obama administration and Western intelligence.

Desperate to keep radicals in the fight, the US recently accused Assad of supporting ISIS in the toppling of his own country, a major narrative shift which aims to shape public opinion.

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