Obama sends troops to Syria

A report notes Obama’s decison to send troops to Syria.

It begins “In a major shift, the Obama administration is now willing to have U.S. troops take part in direct combat against the Islamic State, a move that could lead to American fatalities in Iraq and Syria and that poses political risks for a White House that had long vowed to keep U.S. forces out of the fight. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the United States “won’t hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL or conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground.” ISIL is an alternate acronym for the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or Daesh”.

The article goes on to make the point “Carter’s comments follow his assertion last week that he is “absolutely prepared” for a larger U.S. ground combat role in Iraq — even though those types of missions would carry the clear risk of American casualties. Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, a member of the Army’s elite Delta Force, was killed last week during a raid on an Islamic State prison. A 39-year-old father of four, Wheeler was the first American service member to die in combat in Iraq since 2011. Testifying along with Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford added that in addition to special operations raids, he would be open to embedding U.S. troops with Iraqi combat forces to help provide them with intelligence, direct airstrikes, and artillery fire but only if their deployment “had an operational or strategic impact” on the fight”.

Pointedly the piece notes that “The shift in thinking from months of pledges of “no boots on the ground” to one that embraces an active combat role comes as the Obama administration looks for ways to reinvigorate a stalled fight in Iraq, where the Islamic State retains control of several key cities. It also comes amid an intensifying Russian military intervention in neighbouring Syria, where Vladimir Putin has promised to battle the Islamic State but instead has focused most of his airstrikes on the rebels working to unseat Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. Carter called the new strategy “Raqqa, Ramadi, and raids,” referring first to the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria, followed by the Iraqi city of Ramadi that was taken by jihadi forces in May, and finally to the potential new American ground role in the fight”.

Yet this half hearted strategy leaves open the question, if things are not going well for the Obama strategy then why only put in some troops. Either his strategy has failed and needs a fundamental rethink or Syria and Iraq are not important in which case it is irrelevant that ISIS have large chunks of Iraq and Syria. Obama cannot have it both ways.

The report goes on to conclude “Across the border in Syria, a few dozen Syrian fighters who had been trained and equipped by U.S. forces as part of a failed $500 million program are still in the fight, Dunford said. Despite the cancellation of the program, the general said they continue to receive American aid and have been active in calling in airstrikes on Islamic State positions. Carter also outlined a change in the training effort for Syrian moderate fighters, saying that while the old approach was to identify, vet, and transport fighters out of Syria for weeks of training, the new approach is to work with trusted leaders of groups that are already fighting the Islamic State and “provide equipment and some training to them and support their operations with air power.” Carter and Dunford were repeatedly pressed on the issue of what kind of support the United States was prepared to offer these Syrian fighters when they come under attack, with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) repeatedly framing the issue as a moral one. Neither defense official was willing to offer specifics, but Dunford did admit that “we have the authority, and we have the capability” to defend them through air power. But when asked directly if the United States was ready to defend the rebels from Russian airstrikes, he denied that the main U.S.-backed group, the Free Syrian Army, had been targeted by Russian aircraft”.

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2 Responses to “Obama sends troops to Syria”

  1. Order and Tradition Says:

    […] that politics and Putin are the main causes for President Obama’s recent decision to send troops into the Middle East, “Vladimir Putin ordered U.S. troops into combat in Syria on Friday. […]

  2. Order and Tradition Says:

    […] in Europe. She also signaled an openness to sending more U.S. special forces to Syria than the 50 troops President Barack Obama has already authorized, and advocated for intensifying America’s air campaign against […]

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