Syria: As 400 more Troops go in, What’s Trump’s Mission?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The US had about 500 troops embedded with the People’s Protection Units (Kurdish acronym YPG) until this week, when another 400 were deployed, along with heavy artillery. It is rumored in the Arabic press that yet more troops, perhaps as many as 2000, will soon be deployed to Syria.

Why is the Trump administration doubling down on US military involvement with Syria?

As the Mosul campaign in neighboring Iraq proceeds apace, Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) fighters are fleeing to Raqqa and other areas in Syria, from which they could regroup to fend off the US-backed coalition. Iraqi prime minister Haydar al-Abadi is promising hot pursuit, with the Iraqi military and Air Force hitting Daesh on the Syrian side of the border (they assert that Syrian strong man Bashar al-Assad has given them permission for these cross-border incursions.

At the same time, there is a dispute on the Syrian side about which forces will be taking al-Raqqa, the capital of the collapsing Daesh “caliphate.” Turkey would like it to be its own proteges, Arab militias with a tilt toward Muslim fundamentalism. The Obama Pentagon under Ash Carter had developed a plan to back the leftist Kurdish militia, the YPG along with a few of its Arab allies, in taking Raqqa.

That plan still appears to be the Pentagon favorite, but it has gotten enormous pressure from Turkey not to follow through. Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist organization tightly linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and worries that if it secedes from Syria that act will encourage separatism among Turkish Kurds.

My guess is that Trump is sending a Marines artillery unit so as to bring heavy weaponry to the battlefield against Daesh. Having the Americans handle this weaponry avoids a raging back and forth with Turkey about the propriety of giving heavy weapons to the Kurdistan militias or YPG.

If so, this deployment is political more than it is military. US commanders are talking about staying in the region after Daesh is defeated to pacify it.

These are a whole series of Very Bad Ideas. If any number of US troops are killed, that could been seen as requiring US reprisals and a troop escalation.

US Marines shouldn’t be put in harm’s way in an attempt to make Turkey less angry. The Kurds already have much of al-Raqqa province and if they take the city from Daesh, it won’t make them more or less militant about separatism. Turkey has lost the Syrian war to Russia and Iran, and might as well suck it up.

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Related video:

CGTN: ” U.S. deploys troops to Syria to aid in Raqqa assault”

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23 Responses

  1. This is frightening. Trump has bragged he knows more than the generals, gets his information from television, and the last fiasco in Yemen ended up a disaster. Anyone has any faith in what he is doing? He is an amateur trying to play war games.

    • Question, has congress declared war on Syria, Yemen, or any African nation? Have those countries, or others attacked the US in any way?

  2. Trump consistently claimed it a priority to eliminate ISIS. He planned to coordinate with Putin and Assad, but if he tries that now half the US electorate will demand his head on a plate so he’s left with a parallel somewhat watered down endeavour which may well cause more bloodshed than necessary, end the lives of countless civilians and a number of marines, and distress Turkey in a manner Putin could probably handle. Commonsense in war is a fancy.

  3. With a real estate developer turned Commander in Chief (Trump did attend military academy as a teen) coupled with his complaint “we never win wars anymore” I can see how the neocons might see this as the man who will at last provide the foothold in Syria they have long been denied by Obama. McCain and Graham are surely celebrating.

    Bush the Idiot, no stranger to foreign entanglements, gave an interview last week in which he was asked about sending troops into Iraq. His response was W-esque. He said “I didn’t mind sendin’ troops into war, what I did mind was ’em gettin’ hurt.”

    Trump should have consulted Obama rather than accuse him of wire tapping Trump Tower.

  4. Let’s hope this gets wrapped up quickly. US experience in the region suggests otherwise. But OK, let’s play this out: If we step up our deployments in Syria and things get messy, what are our options? We can take Raqqa – that’s not a problem. But what then? Without a political settlement, it’s going to be hard to pull out – especially if there are US casualties. But a political settlement would have to involve Bashar’s regime. Is that the new strategy? Do we have a strategy.

    • “Playing this out,” unless dealing with a extraordinarily insightful, strong and wise leader, inevitably leads to mission creep. As the posting questions, what’s the idea or possible strategy here (other than for Trump to look like he’s doing something, and to keep a half-baked political promise)?

      This being the case, expect more troops to follow. Unless there’s a Lebanon Barracks experience, which you can safely bet ISIS is now plotting.

    • Do we have a strategy.?

      We’ll probably have some “strategy” similar to those we had in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan and try out the latest mindless idea du jour. Surges will probably be on the menu. We just need to give it a few Friedman Units.

  5. The US involvement in the area has gone from one disaster to the next. Our only hope is that the rush to renewables worldwide will accelerate so we can simply abandon to the region to its own devices.

  6. I would like to know if us Americans even understand the purpose of all this war being waged by our government in the Middle East. Seriously these wars starting with Afghanistan seem endless, and to be more of a money drain than they do feel necessary to keep us safe. Sadly these wars in the Middle East have become a way of life, and pointless to why we’re fighting them. I know there are those who think we are fighting them over there to keep us from fighting them over here, but with all of the terrorist attacks being accomplished by homegrown terrorist, then how does that meme of fighting then over there gain any credibility. Talk about leaderless, and now we have a tough guy with a secret plan to start winning again in the White House, and with his presidency it is official…America is an empire in decline. God help the innocents of this planet who never had a say in any of this mass destruction.

  7. Considering that I have been preaching for the US to stay out of Syria since the idea was first broached, obviously I think this is a terrible idea. As for what is Trump’s plan? It’s probably whatever Putin tells him to do.

  8. Placing troops in a country without that country’s government’s position is an act of war. Acts of war create a state of war. The USG is now warring on the Syrians. Cheers.

  9. Today (Friday) during press meeting one of the reporters (I think his name was John sitting in front row) asked Sean Spicer who will be in control if the taking of Raqqa is successful.

    Spicer did not have a clear answer

  10. What is of serious concern is POTUS has put one of our prize on-the-ground military assets unnecessarily in harm’s way to FULFILL A CAMPAIGN PROMISE. link to news.usni.org

    During June 2012, the 11th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, dropped a 155 mm round on insurgents at more than 22 miles out in Helmand province, marking the longest operational shot in history for the U.S. Marines. (These kids have mastered the software.)

    This could end up being a “Trump’s Errand” worse than Yemen because of the potential for massive escalation should U.S. Marine losses occur.

  11. It’s the “John Wayne Syndrome” all over again!
    Remember when Marines landed at Da Nang
    in 65 to make “short work” of Commie Gooks
    and how that turned out?

  12. What one has to realize is that these are not politicians, they are Businessmen. It is profit not power that motivates them. As a result, one will have contradictory responses based on the profit opportunities these various businessmen find for themselves.

  13. This morning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said U.S. forces in Syria were “invaders” and he had yet to see “anything concrete” emerge from U.S. President Donald Trump’s vow to prioritize the fight against Islamic State.

    link to reuters.com

    How will the Twitter-in-Chief respond to al-Assad calling 45 on his bull•••t?

  14. Syrian president Assad has called the US an invader, which it is by violating International Law and the UN Charter. Success in the eyes of the US establishment means inserting a compliant dictator or creating chaos that somehow the US can more or less manage. The US realizes that Syria with its allies is moving to win against the ongoing war of aggression against Syria by the US and its allies. The US is desperately seeking to prevent that victory by denying Raqqa to the Syrians. Thus it is expanding the number of troops and heavy weaponry.

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