Obama to send small number of special forces to Syria

The White House announced yesterday that the U.S. would be sending a small number of special forces to Syria in order to "advise" Kurdish and other rebels who are advancing on Raqqa, the ISIS capital.

Needless to say, most analysts see through the smoke and mirrors being thrown up by the White House.  The idea that 50 special forces members can do much of anything to help defeat the Islamic State is ridiculous.  But the president likes to be seen as "doing something" – even if that something is, in reality, useless.

Associated Press:

The strategy may help ease Americans back into the realities of war, but regional experts as well as some of Obama's political allies say his slow ramp-up may be insufficient in defeating the fast-moving militants.

"Deploying a handful of U.S. special operations forces to Syria will not change this situation significantly," Frederic Hof, Obama's former Syria special adviser, said of Friday's announcement. "It is a Band-Aid of sorts."

Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Obama's home state of Hawaii, said the latest escalation "is unlikely to succeed in achieving our objective of defeating IS and instead threatens to embroil the United States in Syria's civil war."

The military campaign against the Islamic State is nowhere near the size and scope of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama has repeatedly used the costly and unpopular Iraq war in particular as an example of what he's tried to avoid in the region.

But the significance of Friday's announcement was more about the location of the deployment, not the number of troops. It marks the first time the U.S. has openly sent forces into Syria, expanding the geographic reach of Obama's military efforts in the Middle East.

For years, the president has cast the chaos in Syria as exactly the type of situation he was elected to keep the U.S. military out of. Washington has no partners in the Syrian government and few good options among opposition leaders. There is no ground force that the U.S. can quickly train.

But the crisis has become unavoidable for Obama, particularly since the Islamic State grew out of the chaos and crossed the border into Iraq. What the president could once cast as a civil war that needed to be solved by Syrians has threatened to upend the whole region.

Russia has said that President Assad may be ready to deal, and why not?  The non-ISIS rebels are getting pulverized by Russian bombs, and Assad may not find himself in such a strong position for long.  While the rebels have said they will never talk to Assad while he remains president, the prospects of ending the war with Assad stepping down and becoming president of an Alawite rump state guarded by Russia might get them to change their minds.

Obama wants a seat at the table when peace is discussed, but the reality is that Iran will have a more prominent role than the U.S. in any negotiations.  So the introduction of U.S. combat troops into Syria smells of desperation by the president, who sees the U.S. getting kicked out of the Middle East and Russia vastly increasing its influence in the region.

Another red line crossed, another promise broken. 

The White House announced yesterday that the U.S. would be sending a small number of special forces to Syria in order to "advise" Kurdish and other rebels who are advancing on Raqqa, the ISIS capital.

Needless to say, most analysts see through the smoke and mirrors being thrown up by the White House.  The idea that 50 special forces members can do much of anything to help defeat the Islamic State is ridiculous.  But the president likes to be seen as "doing something" – even if that something is, in reality, useless.

Associated Press:

The strategy may help ease Americans back into the realities of war, but regional experts as well as some of Obama's political allies say his slow ramp-up may be insufficient in defeating the fast-moving militants.

"Deploying a handful of U.S. special operations forces to Syria will not change this situation significantly," Frederic Hof, Obama's former Syria special adviser, said of Friday's announcement. "It is a Band-Aid of sorts."

Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Obama's home state of Hawaii, said the latest escalation "is unlikely to succeed in achieving our objective of defeating IS and instead threatens to embroil the United States in Syria's civil war."

The military campaign against the Islamic State is nowhere near the size and scope of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama has repeatedly used the costly and unpopular Iraq war in particular as an example of what he's tried to avoid in the region.

But the significance of Friday's announcement was more about the location of the deployment, not the number of troops. It marks the first time the U.S. has openly sent forces into Syria, expanding the geographic reach of Obama's military efforts in the Middle East.

For years, the president has cast the chaos in Syria as exactly the type of situation he was elected to keep the U.S. military out of. Washington has no partners in the Syrian government and few good options among opposition leaders. There is no ground force that the U.S. can quickly train.

But the crisis has become unavoidable for Obama, particularly since the Islamic State grew out of the chaos and crossed the border into Iraq. What the president could once cast as a civil war that needed to be solved by Syrians has threatened to upend the whole region.

Russia has said that President Assad may be ready to deal, and why not?  The non-ISIS rebels are getting pulverized by Russian bombs, and Assad may not find himself in such a strong position for long.  While the rebels have said they will never talk to Assad while he remains president, the prospects of ending the war with Assad stepping down and becoming president of an Alawite rump state guarded by Russia might get them to change their minds.

Obama wants a seat at the table when peace is discussed, but the reality is that Iran will have a more prominent role than the U.S. in any negotiations.  So the introduction of U.S. combat troops into Syria smells of desperation by the president, who sees the U.S. getting kicked out of the Middle East and Russia vastly increasing its influence in the region.

Another red line crossed, another promise broken.