I don’t think the word “strategy” works for the US’ policy in Syria, unless there is some secret deep master plan, it’s just the futile thrashing of an imperial power that has failed to learn that military ‘solutions’ are not always efficient, hardly ever clean, and always expensive.
I’m sure that the wise heads in Washington are re-assessing the value of Turkey as an ally. Erdogan appears to be trying to turn the country into a putinocracy or a trumpenstät, and that’s a problem since the US stores about a dozen B-61 H-bombs at Incirlik Air Base, which has been a useful base of operations in the US’ gulf wars. Turkey hasn’t been an entirely well-behaved dictatorship: Erdogan has his own ideas and isn’t kissing the ring enthusiastically enough, and they’ve been fighting a decades-long counter-insurgency attempting to eradicate the Kurds, who fade back and forth across the Iraqi border. It’s probable that the Turks let the US use Incirlik the first time in return for the US’ tacit assent to the Turkish desire that there never be an independent Kurdistan. Subsequent to the American military camel getting its nose under the proverbial tent, Turkey has probably on and off regretted the decision, especially when Gulf War II allowed the Kurds to establish what is, for all intents and purposes, a well-armed Iraqi Kurdistan. Iraqi Kurdistan’s “safety zone” has expanded into the oil-rich areas around Kirkuk and westward into Syria. For all intents and purposes the northeastern corner of Syria has become a part of Kurdistan.
Continue that red dotted line up and across Syria, snipping off the tip, and you’ve got Kurdish Syria. Kurdish Syria is where the US’ secret air force base appears to be located. The US sent marines in to Manbij to help the [stderr] Kurds hold the area, when it appeared that Turkish forces were there not just to displace Syrian regime troops, but to prevent the Kurds from occupying the town.
All of that’s background for the latest announcement, the US has apparently decided to stop playing coy about supporting the Kurdish expansion. The Kurds are going to help do the dying and killing in Raqqa, and they’ll get US-made kill-shinies to do it with. [bbc]
Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) would be equipped to help drive IS from its stronghold, Raqqa, a spokeswoman said.
The US was “keenly aware” of Turkey’s concerns about such a move, she added.
“Turkish concerns, LOL” the US said.
The People’s Protection Units (YPG), which has been fighting Islamic State with U.S.-led air support, says it now controls territory the size of Qatar and Kuwait combined. [business insider]
Raqqa is pretty far down into Syria, so the US probably has a deal with the Kurds that, when the fighting is over, they’ll pull back and defend their new border. Turkey’s objective to ‘free’ Raqqa with the assistance of anti-Syrian-government rebels is in whole or in part motivated by the desire to get there ahead of the Kurds.
I doubt Turkey is ‘concerned’ as much as frantic – they’ve recently seen their tank forces brutally munched by anti-Syrian-government insurgents using Russian-made ATGMs, now they’re expecting the US will be arming the Kurds to the point where they’ll represent a credible national army. Which is about right. And, the next step after that will be calls for an independent Kurdistan. That won’t be for a while, but the lines that the British and French drew on the map when they carved up the Ottoman Empire: they’re written in crayon.
My main concern-point about all this is the degree to which the US Government pretends to its people that the military is under control of the civilian branch of government. Most Americans cling to this quaint idea that the President goes to Congress and asks for a declaration of war, and that Congress has – you know – a constitutionally-granted control over the deployment of military force. That is obviously a lie: Congress is busy side-showing about email hacking and government shutdowns, while the real government – the military – creates policy in cooperation with the President. The War Powers Resolution was an attempt to rein in the President’s ability to work with the military to bypass civilian control, but it’s basically being ignored.
If you want to do an experiment, ask an American if they are aware that President Obama deployed US troops into Syria, and that the US built a secret air base in another country without permission. It’s as if the US watched Russia annex Crimea and thought, “damn, let’s do that kinda stuff, too.” It’s more like, “huh, nobody cared, so let’s stop pretending.”