[pjw] NEWS: Obama ramps up special forces mission in Syria against Islamic State (Reuters 4/25)
Peace and Justice Works
pjw at pjw.info
Mon Apr 25 12:27:52 EDT 2016
If you haven't already downloaded and displayed our "No boots on the
ground/ no bombs in the air" poster, it's more urgent now than ever to do
Despite the fact that the US has no security pact whatsoever with the
government of Syria, no UN mandate, and no real precedent in international
law to do so, it's expanding its already illegal presence of 50 ground
troops to a total of 300.
There's been some progress in Syria in the sense that a cease fire, which
admittedly is now coming apart, has been in place since late
February/early March. Why the US thinks that adding more fuel to the fire
is a way to put the fire out shows they don't even look at their own
Let the president know what you think!
peace and justice works iraq affinity group
Obama ramps up special forces mission in Syria against Islamic State
By Roberta Rampton Reuters April 25, 2016
HANOVER, Germany (Reuters) - President Barack Obama announced on Monday
the biggest expansion of U.S. ground troops in Syria since the civil
war there began, saying he would dispatch 250 special forces soldiers
to help local militia to build on successes against Islamic State.
The new deployment increases U.S. forces in Syria six-fold to about
300. While the total U.S. ground force is still small by comparison to
other American deployments, defense experts said it could help shift
the momentum in Syria by giving more Syrian fighters on the ground
access to U.S. close air support.
Obama said the move followed victories that clawed back territory from
"Given the success, I've approved the deployment of up to 250
additional U.S. personnel in Syria, including special forces, to keep
up this momentum," Obama said in a speech in the German city of
Hanover, the last stop on a foreign tour that has taken him to Saudi
Arabia and Britain.
"They're not going to be leading the fight on the ground, but they will
be essential in providing the training and assisting local forces as
they continue to drive ISIL back," he added, using an acronym for
Islamic State, also known as ISIS or Daesh.
The U.S. military has led an air campaign against Islamic State since
2014 in both Iraq and Syria, but the campaign's effectiveness in Syria
has been limited by a lack of allies on the ground in a country where a
complex, multi-sided civil war has raged for five years.
Russia launched its own air campaign in Syria last year, which has been
more effective because it is closely coordinated with the government of
President Bashar al-Assad, who is Moscow's ally but a foe of the United
CLOSE AIR SUPPORT
Washington's main allies on the ground have been a Kurdish force known
as the YPG, who wrested control of much of the Turkish-Syrian border
from Islamic State. However, the alliance has been constrained because
U.S. ally Turkey is deeply hostile to the YPG.
“Presumably these are going to assist our Kurdish YPG friends to widen
and deepen their offensive against IS in northeastern Syria,” Tim
Ripley, defense analyst and writer for IHS Janes Defence Weekly
magazine, said of the extra special forces.
“The more people you have, the more militia groups can have close air
support that makes them more effective so they can advance in more
areas,” Ripley said.
But Washington would still have to take a political decision to help
the Kurds despite Turkish objections. Kurdish advances have largely
stopped since February, with Turkey opposed to the Kurds taking more
“The real question has to be: are they going to let the Kurdish YPG
forces actually go and attack and capture some territory? This is
something the Americans have not been happy about because when the YPG
forces attack and capture territory, it tends to anger the president of
Turkey," Ripley said.
The Syria Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed coalition set up in October
to unite the Kurdish YPG and some Arab allies, welcomed Obama's
announcement but still wanted more help.
"Any support they offer is positive but we hope there will be greater
support," SDF spokesman Talal Silo said. "So far we have been supplied
only with ammunition, and we were hoping to be supplied with military
The HNC umbrella opposition, which represents groups opposed to Assad
but not the Kurds, also welcomed U.S. forces helping rid Syria of the
Islamic State "scourge", but said Washington should do more to fight
"Syria will not be free of terrorism until we see the end of the Assad
regime’s reign of terror. We need help in freeing our country from
Assad as well as from Daesh," spokesman Salem al-Meslet said in a
If the Kurds are given the green light to advance with American air
support, the main short-term objective could be sealing off the last
stretch of the border that is not held by the Kurds or the government,
west of the Euphrates river.
That would deny Islamic State access to the outside world, but would
infuriate Turkey which regards the border as the main access route for
other Sunni Muslim rebel groups it supports against Assad, and for aid
to civilians in rebel areas.
THE RACE FOR RAQQA
U.S. special forces teams providing close air support could ultimately
help the Kurds advance on Raqqa, Islamic State's main Syrian stronghold
and de facto capital.
“This places them in another quandary. Do they coordinate their attack
on Raqqa with the Syrian army and the Russian air force, who are ...
advancing on Raqqa? ... The question is who's going to get there
first,” Ripley said.
With German Chancellor Angela Merkel sitting in the audience, Obama
also urged Europe and NATO allies to do more in the fight against
Islamic State. The group controls the cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa
in Syria and a swathe of territory in between, and has proven a potent
threat abroad, claiming responsibility for major attacks in Paris in
November and Brussels in March.
"Even as European countries make important contributions against ISIL,
Europe, including NATO, can still do more," Obama said ahead of talks
with Merkel and the leaders of Britain, France and Italy.
European countries have mostly contributed only small numbers of
aircraft to the U.S.-led mission targeting Islamic State fighters in
Iraq and Syria.
Obama pledged to wind down wars in the Middle East when he was first
elected in 2008. But in the latter part of his presidency he has found
it necessary to keep troops in Afghanistan, return them to Iraq and
send them to Syria, where the five-year civil war has killed at least
In Iraq, Islamic State has been forced back since December when it lost
Ramadi, capital of the western province of Anbar. In Syria, jihadist
fighters have been pushed from the city of Palmyra by Russian-backed
Syrian government forces.
TALKS IN MELTDOWN, TRUCE IN TATTERS
But Washington's lack of allies on the ground has meant its role in
Syria has been circumscribed. The sudden entry of Moscow into the
conflict last year tipped the balance of power in favor of Assad
against a range of rebel groups supported by Turkey, other Arab states
and the West including Washington.
Washington and Moscow sponsored a ceasefire between most of the main
warring parties since February, which allowed the first peace talks
involving Assad's government and many of his foes to begin last month.
However, those talks appear close to collapse, with the main opposition
delegation having suspended its participation last week, and the
ceasefire is largely in tatters. Islamic State is excluded from the
Fighting has increased in recent days near Aleppo, once Syria's largest
city, now split between rebel and government zones. A monitoring group
said 60 people had been killed there in three days of intense fighting,
including civilians killed by rebel shelling and government air
The Syrian government's negotiator at the Geneva talks said a bomb hit
a hospital near a Shi'ite shrine near Damascus, killing many innocent
people and proving the government's enemies were terrorists.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Andreas Rinke in Hanover, Jeff Mason
and Kevin Drawbaugh in Washington, Michelle Martin in Berlin and Peter
Graff in London; writing by Noah Barkin and Peter Graff; editing by
Peter Millership and Giles Elgood)
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