Sunday, May 1, 2016

US sending 250 more troops to Syria but no mission creep

Although the Pentagon admits it is sending 250 more troops to Syria, it denies that this represents any mission creep in the war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. The deployment is said to be needed simply to meet current requirements.

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said:
“These are specific capabilities ... specific needs right now as we talk to our partners. And including our assessment, talking to local leaders on the ground in Syria, these are decisions that we think makes sense to accelerate this campaign and to further enable those local forces.This is not a question of putting in thousands of American forces to wage this fight. We are looking to others to carry this fight out but to do what we can to support them.”Before sending these troops there were only 50 special operations troops said to be in Syria.
Last week the Pentagon announced it was sending 200 troops to Iraq as well. Some members in both parties criticized the incremental increases in troops numbers being sent to the region. Some Republican hawks say that the number of troops being sent are too few. On the other hand, some Democrats describe the increases as mission creep that will draw the U.S. deeper into conflicts.
As usual, the authorities deny that the new troops represent "boots on the ground." Cook said those sent to Syria will not be on the front lines. Their role will be to train and assist local forces, as well as provide intelligence on the ground. There will also be medical and logistical personnel included in the group. Military commanders had recommended that 250 troops be sent. Cook explained:“Force multipliers is the best way to look at this. A small number of Americans with these kinds of capabilities can bring an enormous weight to bear in this fight and in support of these forces. And those forces who have come into contact and worked with U.S. forces, I think would attest to that.”
The troop deployment came less than 24 hours after Obama said on the BBC that he ruled out sending more ground troops to Syria. He said that military efforts alone could not solve Syria's problem: "It would be a mistake for the United States, or Great Britain... to send in ground troops and overthrow the [Bashar al-] Assad regime. We can slowly shrink the environment in which they operate."Obama is constantly trying to assure Americans that he will not involve the U.S. in extensive combat operations like those earlier in Iraq and Afghanistan. These more extensive actions result in casualties that are politically damaging. Obama prefers actions such as the drone program, proxy wars, and use of special forces, that involve almost no casualties and are not noticeable to many in the general public.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which includes the strong YPG militia of the Kurds, is the main partner of the U.S. fighting the Islamic State in Syria. It welcomed the plans of the U.S. but claimed it needed more support, including guided anti-armor missiles. Spokesperson Talal Sito said: "Any support they offer is positive but we hope there will be greater support. So far we have been supplied only with ammunition, and we were hoping to be supplied with military hardware, and this is something we were promised." The alliance was formed last October and has been successful at wresting territory away from the control of the Islamic State. However, Turkey opposes the YPG and worries that a Kurdish enclave is being formed on its border.


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