The news about US troops engaging in Syria has been pretty low-key. Probably because, you know, it exposes some government lies about the degree to which the military is/was going to get involved in the fighting in the area.
Per Andrew Bacevich, [stderr] we might do well to be wondering out loud what “winning” means in the current situation.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, on Monday said the U.S. troops are on the western outskirts of Manbij to “reassure and deter,” and are making themselves visible by flying American flags. It is neither an offensive nor defense role, he said, but a mission designed to keep a lid on tensions that risk creating new levels of violence in northern Syria.[star]
How does one “succeed” in such a mission?
I am genuinely puzzled: it sounds to me like the US forces deterrent value is something like: “if you kill us, more Americans will come.” A rational enemy might a) want that, b) believe it’s going to happen anyway or c) not care because that’s what’s already happening – d) all of the above. This show of force seems to me to be a bad idea born of desperation, because:
Manbij is a flashpoint because Turkey claims that Syrian Kurdish fighters it considers a threat to Turkey are operating in the city, despite U.S. denials. Also in the area are Syrian regime forces backed by Russia as well as American-supported Syrian Arab fighters.
So, the problem is that there are too many different opposed interests converging on Manbij, therefore stability will be ensured by adding another opposed interest to the mix.The US is engaging in the same kind of strategic genius that brought ISIS in the first place: if you rewind your memory back to when Iraq was overthrown, the US kept trying to interpose itself in the middle of a Sunni/Shia territorial war, by allying with, uh, everyone (especially the Kurds) and well, that didn’t work. Then the US tacitly supported its proxies transferring huge amounts of weapons into the region to overthrow Syria, but now those weapons have perfused thoroughly through the region, having a significant effect (as intended) on the power-balance. So now the US is trying to cooperate, once again, with pretty much everyone on the battlefield – the Turks are allies, and so are the Kurds except neither of them wants to cooperate with the other so the US drives in the middle with flags waving and hopes nobody shoots.
How does one “win” such a situation? Does the US intend to remain in position there indefinitely? Because the Turkish/Kurdish split is not going to resolve itself in our lifetimes unless there’s some serious high-level diplomacy between parties that have shown no willingness to engage in diplomacy for a long time.
The spokesman said the new U.S. presence is meant in part to “reassure that ISIS has been driven from Manbij,” adding, “Manbij is liberated and there’s not a need for further fighting there.”
“French soldiers arrived in Kobani along with US troops to take part in liberating Manbij. They are primarily tasked with coordinating airstrikes of the [US-led] coalition, consulting and providing training to Manbij’s Military council and the Syrian Democratic Forces,” [sputnik]
France admitted that its special forces were deployed to northern Syria last week. “We are helping with arms, we are helping with aerial support, we are helping with advice,” France’s Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
Because that’s what the situation needs: more arms and airstrikes. I can’t come up with the proper acronym, but this sounds like a Joint ISIS US French Russian Syrian Kurdish Turkish Fuck Up in progress. This is actually not about ISIS, it’s about Turks and Kurds – it’s difficult when your allies want to resume killing eachother during the middle of the civil war you started.
It’s too much to hope that some genius would declare peace. I hate to sound naive but if the US is putting troops in as bullet-catchers, maybe it would be best to just declare “Pax Americana” in that area and ask everyone to stand down.