On Friday, The White House announced that the US is set to put boots on the ground in Syria.
Predictably, virtually no one in the mainstream media is asking the right questions.
A painful Q&A with Josh Earnest saw the White House Press Secretary attempting to explain to reporters that there’s a distinction between “advise and assist” and “combat.” In short, everyone was keen on documenting the stark contrast between placing spec ops troops in harm’s way and Obama’s 2013 pledge to “not put boots on the ground” inside Syria.
While documenting the purported “shift” in strategy may make for good weekend reading for America’s clueless masses, it completely misses the point. As recently released helmet cam footage clearly demonstrates (assuming it actually depicts what Washington says it depicts) 30 Delta Force commandos were involved in a single operation in Iraq. That is, nearly as many troops as Obama is now set to send to Syria fought just last week in one battle against ISIS. And while that’s Iraq and we’re now talking about Syria, the distinction is to a large extent meaningless - there are American boots on the ground in the region and there have been in one capacity or another for at least 12 years.
The real questions revolve around where these troops are going to be placed, what their objectives are, and ultimately, how the Pentagon plans to do this without putting them in the crosshairs of either the Russians, the Turkish air force, or Hezbollah. Here’s a bit of color from WSJ on what the “plan” is:
Up to 50 U.S. special-operations troops will assist Syrian rebel units spearheading what the Pentagon says would be a new military offensive against the militant group, marking a sharp escalation in the level of direct U.S. involvement on the ground inside Syria. The American forces are to link up with local forces in Kurdish-controlled territory whose mission will be to choke off supply lines to Islamic State militants in their Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.
The first phase of the new campaign is expected to kick off with an operation in northern Syria as early as next week, officials said. U.S. drones and fighter planes will provide the Syrian fighters with air support.
Under Mr. Obama’s new orders, the American commandos will operate in Syria under what the Pentagon calls an advise-and-assist mission, and will not accompany local forces on any of their operations “for the foreseeable future,” a senior U.S. defense official said.
But other defense officials said they couldn’t rule out the possibility that the forces would be pulled into occasional firefights with Islamic State military given their proximity to the confrontation line. The officials cited as an example last week’s raid in Iraq in which a U.S. commando was killed.
To support local forces with their ground campaign, Mr. Obama has authorized the deployment of A-10 Warthog ground-attack planes as well as F-15 fighters to the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, administration officials said.
And here’s more, via Reuters:
A U.S.-backed Syrian rebel alliance on Saturday announced a fresh offensive against Islamic State in the northeast province of Hasaka, a day after the United States said it would send special forces to advise insurgents fighting the jihadists.
It was the first declared operation by the Democratic Forces of Syria, which joins together a U.S.-backed Kurdish militia and several Syrian Arab rebel groups, since it announced its formation earlier this month.
"We announce today the start of the first step in our military operations," a spokesman for the alliance's general command said in Arabic in a video statement posted on Youtube.
The video showed several dozen men in fatigues standing outdoors with yellow flags and banners carrying the name
of the Democratic Forces of Syria in Arabic and Kurdish.
The Kurdish YPG has been working closely with the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition since early this year, and has to date proved Washington's most effective partner on the ground against IS in Syria.
The United States, which announced on Friday it was to station its first ground troops in Syria for the war on IS, has dropped ammunition to rebels in the north of Syria but without specifying which group the aid was intended for.
"With the participation of all the factions... and with support and coordination with the planes of the international coalition to fight Daesh, we announce the start of the liberation of the southern countryside of Hasaka," the spokesman said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
Ok, so what appears to be going on here is that Washington is going to embed the US commandos with the Kurds and support them with airstikes flown from Incirlik. If you follow the conflict closely, that should strike you as completely absurd. The US is going to fight alongside the YPG and provide them with air support via a Turkish airbase.
As we noted in "Full Metal Retard: US Launches 'Performance-Based' Ammo Paradrop Program For Make-Believe 'Syrian Arabs'", the "Democratic Forces of Syria" (which has already been renamed - twice) doesn't exist. Washington created a fake umbrella group whose first move was apparently to merge with the Kurds. Why the charade? Becase Erdogan has an election to win and the last thing Turkey wants is for the US to be paradropping hundreds of tons of ammo and weapons to a group (the YPG) that is aligned with the PKK. In other words, Washington needed a cover story in order to sell the ammo drop to Erdogan, so the US claimed the weapons were actually in the hands of a group of "moderate Syrian Arabs" who just happen to have merged with the Kurds two days after they announced their existence.
As a reminder, Turkey holds elections tomorrow. If the AKP doesn't win back its absolute majority in parliament, Erdogan is going to lose his mind, which means the crackdown on the Kurds is going to intensify. How in the world Washington plans to explain to Ankara that the US plans to use a Turkish airbase to fly missions in support of American commandos that have been stationed with a group Turkey considers to be affiliated with terrorists is a complete mystery.
So that, in a nutshell, is what the press should be asking The White House to explain.
Of course the real question is what happens when Russia and Iran have finished routing anti-regime forces in Western Syria and decide to start making the push east. That's when US troops will come in direct contact with Russian jets and Hezbollah ground troops. Obviously all bets are off at that point and one can only hope they'll be some kind of communication between Moscow and Washington lest the battle to "liberate" Raqqa from ISIS should end up being the fight that triggers World War III.