Written and produced by SF Team: Edwin Watson, Desislava Tzonev, Yoana
US President, Barack Obama. on June 2 delivered the commencement address to the 2016 graduating class at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He noted that the US supports a political transition of power in Syria and is not going to send troops there.
“If Iran and Russia want to spill their blood and treasure trying to prop up their Syrian client and get sucked into a quagmire, that is their choice. As President of the United States, I’ve made a different choice. And the only real solution to the Syrian conflict is a political solution, including a transition away from Assad. And that takes diplomacy – not American soldiers being dragged into the middle of another civil war in the Middle East,” Obama said.
The US President emphasized his wide strategic vision and noted that it is necessary to think before you do something.
“Suggestions for deeper US military involvement in a conflict like the Syrian civil war have to be fully thought through, rigorously examined with an honest assessment of the risks and trade-offs,” he said. “When we ask those questions, we prevent the kind of mission creep that history teaches us to avoid.”
However, these great words are contradictory to the facts on the Syrian battlesapce.
Initially, the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS used only the air power. It was the US power in 90% of the cases to oppose the group in Syria and Iraq. However, the ISIS expansion continued. It became clear that only air strikes wihout coordination from the ground and a significant ground force can not defeat the terrorist group.
Then, the US wasted $500 million in order to train and equip the so-called ’moderate opposition‘. The White House expected to have about 5,000-strong rebel force by the end of 2015, but due to desertion and others reasons (the so called “rebels” just sold the weapons to Al Nusra and ISIS), the programme produced only about five trained fighters before it was closed in October, 2015.
In September, Russia launched a military operation in Syria, targeting ISIS, Al Nusra and other Jihadist groups. Some of them were called a ’moderate opposition’ by the US and its allies. The US hopes to overthrow Assad in the near future were broken.
For the White House, the situation became very complicated.
There were only two options to gain a force on the ground without deployment of US troops:
- To publicly support Jihadi groups
- To support Kurdish units, controlled by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) – the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Any decision would lead to further problems. However, the US decided to support the Kurds, damaging its relations with Turkey. Furthermore, the zone of the YPG’s operations is limited by the areas populated by Kurds. These issues were ignored by the Pentagon because of political reasons and pressure from the Obama administration, which was seeking at the very least, a PR success amid the Russian actions in the Arab country.
In this case, the liberation of the ISIS self-proclaimed city of Raqqa became the only useful answer to Moscow’s operation in Syria. Any other ’success‘ was not enough to rehabilitate the US foreign policy in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq.
Considering the tensions between the Kurds and the Syrian Arab population, the US created an umbrella brand, called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The SDF includes some Arab units, however, the YPG remains the main striking force of the SDF. The Kurds are simply unable to seize a major Arab city such as Raqqa. This would contribute to a rise of ISIS support in the province. Also, the SDF Arab units were not enough to do this. This is why the US decided to deploy 600 special operation forces troops in Syria. Eventually, the Pentagon deployed 250 and then it deployed 350 more special forces in Syria.
The operation for Raqqa is still far away, however, one US solider has already been injured in Syria. There are no doubts that more casualties are expected. US special operation forces troops operate directly at the frontline, providing targets for the US-led coalition air power, coordinating SDF units and even participating in clashes with ISIS. Will the US troops participate in the long-awaited storm of Raqqa? They can not avoid this if the goal is to show a clear success and take the city.
US officials have argued that US troops in Syria are there to train SDF fighters. Now, they argue that US troops are in Syria for an advisory mission aimed at supporting the liberation of Raqqa. Nonetheless, the US troops and the SDF do not even move in the direction of Raqqa. They clash for the ISIS-controlled Manbij in Northern Syria. Isn’t this a deep military involvement already, Mr. Obama?