[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 
recent history.

Let the president know what you think!

dan handelman
peace and justice works iraq affinity group

Obama ramps up special forces mission in Syria against Islamic State
    [21]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
    Islamic State.

    "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


    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
    against Assad.

    "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.


    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
    250,000 people.

    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.


    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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