AuthorTopic: US - Syria  (Read 904 times)

Offline Palloy

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US - Syria
« on: August 03, 2015, 06:45:55 PM »
Slowly but surely, the US is being drawn into the Syrian war.  It is only logical (the hawks will say) to defend their proxy forces on the ground, but obviously Assad won't "turn a blind eye" to US planes if they are bombing HIS forces. 

Next the headline will be "Assad shoots down US plane with Putin-supplied S-300 missile".  Outrageous! - he is NOT ALLOWED to do that.  Then they will claim that Assad attacked us, and "US planes strike Putin-supplied anti-aircraft radars and missile launchers".
Taking sides in Syrian civil war? Obama authorizes airstrikes ‘to defend’ US-trained rebels
3 Aug, 2015

The US president has reportedly authorized the Air Force to protect Syrian rebels trained by Washington to fight against Islamic State by bombing any force attacking them, including Syrian regular troops.

Thus the US may become involved in the Syrian civil war on the rebel side.

The change was first reported by US officials speaking on condition of anonymity with the Wall Street Journal Sunday. The first airstrikes to protect American trainees in Syria have already taken place on Friday, July 31, when the US Air Force bombed unidentified militants who attacked the compound of the US-trained rebels.

So far the fighter jets of the anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) US-led coalition have been bombing jihadist targets in Syria’s north and the national air defense units were turning a blind eye to foreign military aircraft in their airspace.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama’s decision reportedly involves inflicting airstrikes against any force that attacks the Syrian rebel armed force being trained by American instructors and armed on money from the US budget, with the officially-proclaimed aim of dealing with the advances of IS.

“For offensive operations, it’s ISIS only. But if attacked, we’ll defend them against anyone who’s attacking them,” a senior military official told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday. “We’re not looking to engage the regime, but we’ve made a commitment to help defend these people.”

Neither the Pentagon nor the White House officially commented on the decision about the new broader rules of engagement, Reuters reports. So far the US has been avoiding direct confrontation with the forces of President Bashar Assad.

“We won't get into the specifics of our rules of engagement, but have said all along that we would take the steps necessary to ensure that these forces could successfully carry out their mission," said White House National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey, stressing that so far only US-trained forces have being provided with a wide range of support, including “defensive fires support to protect them.”

The Kremlin said that US airstrikes against Syrian troops would further destabilize the situation.

Moscow has “repeatedly underlined that help to the Syrian opposition, moreover financial and technical assistance, leads to further destabilization of the situation in the country,” Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said, adding that IS terrorists may take advantage of this situation.

The US rebel training program launched in May implies military instruction of up to 5,400 fighters a year, Reuters reports. The program is reportedly so hard for the trainees that some candidates are being declared ineligible from the start.

According to WSJ, Pentagon has been planning to have 3,000 fighters trained by the end of 2015, but finding applicants without ties to hardline groups turned out to be a heavy task. Reportedly, so far fewer than 60 fighters have been trained.

There are now multiple groups taking part in the Syrian civil war, as Assad’s troops are fighting not only the rebels, but also other militant groups, such as Al-Qaeda's Syrian wing, the so-called Al-Nusra Front, and IS. The militant groups, in turn, are fighting not only Assad’s troops, but each other too.

“We recognize, though, that many of these groups now fight on multiple fronts, including against the Assad regime, (Islamic State) and other terrorists,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Commander Elissa Smith, stressing though that “first and foremost” the US focuses on combating IS.

However, as a result the US warplanes may end up bombing government troops under the command of a legitimate president, Assad, an act of aggression against a sovereign country that only the UN Security Council could authorize.

September will mark one year that the US-led coalition has been bombing positions of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Although already in November 2014 there were reports that the anti-IS campaign could be nothing else but a move to allow the US military to oust President Assad through less direct means.

In 2013, Damascus narrowly escaped a US-led invasion after Russia brokered an agreement for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons to the international community.

At the time, UK Prime Minister David Cameron lost a bid in the House of Commons to ally British forces with the US military, but now Royal Air Force is bombing positions of IS along with the Americans.

An airstrike of the anti-IS coalition on Assad troops might become a very dangerous precedent and cause a direct military conflict between Washington and Damascus, something that diplomats have manage to avoid since the beginning of the Syrian civil war.
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Offline Palloy

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Re: US - Syria
« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2015, 08:41:34 PM »
So in the first engagement of "US-trained rebels" with US air support was with Al Nusra, who were intent on wiping them out, as you would expect.  The result: "at least half of its personnel killed, captured or missing", their commander captured, and some fleeing to Turkey and Pershmerga-held areas.
‘Abject failure’: Pentagon-trained Syrian force under fire after first battle
8 Aug, 2015
After US-trained Syrian fighters were apparently killed, captured or went missing in their very first battle with an Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, questions have been raised as to whether the Pentagon’s costly engagement with the Syrian opposition, allegedly to fight ISIS, was worth it.

The first batch of ‘Division 30’ trainees, are also known as the New Syrian Force (NSF). NSF consists of some 54 fighters, and has reportedly ceased to exist as a battle unit, with at least half of its personnel killed, captured or missing, CBS reported.

The devastation was caused by Al Nusra Front, an Islamic group loyal to Al Qaeda, while the NSF was created with a different task in mind, to counter Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) fighters, who have not yet been caught in the NSF line of fire.

The first firefight reportedly ended with the NSF calling for the US air support, which they received, as the American warplanes hammered some 30 Al Nusra militants to dust.

But the extremists returned shortly afterwards to take revenge on coreligionists, killing some of the NSF trainees and capturing several American-trained Syrian rebels, their commander included. The remaining people fled the area, some reportedly to Turkey, where they were trained. Others left for territory secured by the Kurdish militia, Peshmerga.

“Between Monday and Tuesday, Al-Nusra Front seized at least five rebels from Division 30 in the village of Qah, near the Turkish border,” AFP cited Rami Abdel Rahman, chief of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, as saying. Last week the jihadists also captured at least eight rebels from the same US-backed unit, the Observatory reported.

To capture the NSF trainees on Monday, Al-Nusra stormed a camp for internally displaced people, where rebel fighters had taken refuge. “Five fighters were seen captured but there may be more,” the Observatory stressed, adding that according to informers on the ground, Al-Nusra is “hunting down” US-backed rebels in at least two Syrian territories: Idlib province and neighboring Aleppo province.

The Pentagon has already spent $42 million setting up the Syrian rebels training program. In total, Washington is ready to spend a total of $500 million training and equipping 12,000 Syrian fighters, CBS reports, citing an unnamed US military official, who called the Pentagon’s first attempt to inject trained fighters into the Syrian conflict as an “abject failure.”

The first experience of using Syrian rebels against hardened Islamic extremists suggests that using American-trained fighters in small groups is of no use, even with the help of the US Air Force ready to provide support. The NSF units are not only unable to attain their objectives, but rather are not motivated enough to stand the fight.

“Certainly this past week has highlighted some of the challenges associated with fielding New Syrian forces, but it's important to keep in mind that success does not hinge on one fight or one event and we're still in the early phases of implementing this program,” Associated Press cited Col. Pat Ryder, Central Command spokesman. “And that we're continually applying lessons learned and working as a coalition,” Ryder said, aiming to improve the training program.

Ryder did not go into detail about the whether any of the missing NSF fighters returned to the battlefield, only saying that they are not under US command and control.

“The situation on the ground in Syria is incredibly complex, the situation in terms of the various malign elements within Syria makes reinsertion or exfiltration very challenging,” said Ryder, as cited by the AP. “As we observe the situation, as we instruct new recruits, there are certainly things we're taking into account.”

Fergus Hodgson, the Capitol Bureau Reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, also told RT that the US getting involved into proxy wars is a “very short-sighted and unfortunate plan.”

“They don’t know what they are choosing, they are picking winners and losers, and it’s foolish because there’s no access strategy, there’s no long-term plan,” Hodgson said, adding that it is “crazy” to pick “small time militia groups” to overthrow a government or to push back the Islamic State.

The US “middle ground” policy in Syria is achieving nothing, because the US would not join the confrontation in the region more aggressively, so “we’re just playing silly games at this point,” Hodgson concluded.
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Offline Palloy

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Re: US - Syria
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2015, 09:54:48 PM »
This ZH article is a bit of a mess too, but follow it if you can.
"It's A Friggin' Mess": The Pentagon Sums Up Syria Fight
Tyler Durden

On Monday, nine people were killed across Turkey in a wave of attacks that included a shooting at the US Consulate, a bombing at a police station, a gun battle at the same police station, an attack on a military helicopter by "Kurdish rebels", and a roadside bombing.

The violence is the latest escalation in hostilities between Ankara and various "extremist" groups and for President Tayyip Erdogan, each new attack serves as still more evidence of the incipient threat posed by the PKK and other "terrorists" he says are operating within and around the country’s borders.

Of course what Erdogan really cares about is undermining the pro-Kurdish HDP prior to snap elections which he hopes will restore his absolute majority in parliament. Lumping the PKK in with ISIS has allowed Ankara to obtain NATO’s blessing for an offensive which has so far been focused on the Kurds but which Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu swears will shift towards ISIS as soon as newly-arrived US F-16s are prepared to fly missions from Incirlik which, as noted here last week, will supposedly serve as the hub for a new comprehensive fight against Islamic State. It’s been suggested that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan may contribute to the effort.

All of this is of course designed to provide everyone involved (the US, Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia) with an excuse to remove Bashar al-Assad from Damascus. Russia isn’t so keen on this, as removing Assad threatens to undermine Moscow’s influence in the region but more importantly, could clear the way for the long-delayed Turkey-Qatar natural gas pipeline which would be an outright disaster for Gazprom and could serve to break the Kremlin’s leverage over Europe by freeing it from its dependence on Russian energy.

Realizing that Assad’s badly depleted forces are likely to face defeat sooner or later, either at the hands of the various militants "freedom fighters" vying for control of the country or else at the hands of the US military which we imagine could "accidentally" end up engaging Assad’s forces directly once the air campaign against ISIS picks up, Moscow has gone back and forth between suggesting that it’s willing to negotiate for an "alternative" to Assad and saying that Russia is willing to lend military support to Damascus if it means helping to eradicate "terrorists." Again we see that both sides are prepared to use ISIS as an excuse to turn what has so far been a thinly-veiled proxy war into an actual confrontation between East and West and although Russia may be willing to "go there" if all options are exhausted, the economic realities of collapsing crude and Western sanctions are all too real which is presumably why the Kremlin entertained Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss next steps for Syria. In the end, it all came down to the fate of Assad and both sides are apparently willing to stand their ground - for now. Here’s Al Jazeera:

    Russia and Saudi Arabia have failed in talks held in Moscow to overcome their differences on the fate of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a central dispute in Syria's civil war that shows no sign of abating despite renewed diplomacy.

    Moscow has called for coordination between the Syrian government and members of an international coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which controls swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq.

    Speaking after talks in Moscow on Tuesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir reiterated Riyadh's stance that Assad must go.

    "A key reason behind the emergence of Islamic State was the actions of Assad who directed his arms at his nation, not Islamic State," Jubeir told a news conference after talks with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

    "Assad is part of the problem, not part of the solution to the Syrian crisis. There is no place for Assad in the future of Syria," he said.

    Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said anti-ISIL forces united on the ground should have wide international backing. But Jubeir specifically ruled out any coalition with Assad and tension between the ministers was often visible during the conference.

Here's Lavrov (translated):
[audio stream]

For anyone not willing to sit through the audio, here is the operative quote: "I would not want any powerful state involved in attempts to solve the Syrian crisis to believe that Assad issue may be solved militarily, because the only way of such a military solution is the seizure of power [in Syria] by Islamic State and other terrorists."

Of course Lavrov surely realizes that ISIS seizing power in Syria would likely be just fine with the US and its regional allies. After all, when it comes to "boots on the ground" excuses that will fly with the American voter, "ISIS captures entire country" has to be right near the top of the list.

Meanwhile, the US and Turkey are pressing ahead with efforts to establish a so-called "ISIS-free zone" along what is virtually the only stretch of the latter's border with Syria not under the control of the Kurdish YPG. As we discussed at length in "Why Turkey's 'ISIS-Free Zone' Is The Most Ridiculous US Foreign Policy Outcome In History," this swath of territory would likely fall under the control of the Syrian Kurds in relatiely short order (which, at least in the context of fighting ISIS, would be a good thing), were it not for the fact that they are affiliated with the PKK which means that Turkey (and by extension, the US) will have no part of it.

Another group who won't be helping to rout ISIS in the north is al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra, which apparently thinks the effort to prevent the Kurds from capturing the remaining terriroty along the northern border with Turkey is just as absurd as we do. Here's The New York Times:

    The Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda has announced its withdrawal from front-line positions against the Islamic State extremist group in northern Syria, saying that it disagrees with plans by Turkey and the United States to clear the extremists from an area along the Turkish border.

    In a statement on Monday, the Qaeda group, the Nusra Front, said the proposed plan was intended primarily to protect "Turkish national security" and not to advance the Syrian rebel cause.

    Syrian activists in the area reported the withdrawal of the Nusra Front in recent days, saying that other rebel groups had taken up their vacated positions to prevent an advance by Islamic State forces.

    The Nusra Front’s withdrawal from rural positions northeast of the Syrian city of Aleppo came amid newly announced steps by Turkey and the United States to fight the Islamic State in Syria.

    American and Turkish officials last month described plans to provide military support to Syrian rebels to clear the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, from a roughly 60-mile strip of territory along the Turkish border. Nusra said that Turkey was interested in what its officials call a "safe zone" because it was worried about Kurdish forces that have seized much of the land across its border in Syria.

As The Times goes on to note, one thing Nusra did not mention in the purported statement is whatever happened to all of the US-trained "freedom fighters" the group has captured over the past month or so, including those form Division 30 and, more recently, the commander and deputy of the newest group of Pentagon trainees. On that note, we'll close with the following bit from CBS because ... well ... because it underscores how comically absurd this has all become.

    Late last month, the Nusra Front battled the U.S.-backed rebel faction known as Division 30 and killed, wounded or captured dozens of its fighters.

    Last week, U.S. officials said five Pentagon-trained fighters had been captured, probably by the Nusra Front branch in Syria. The Pentagon has lost track of some of the fighters who apparently have scattered, reported CBS News' David Martin.

    "It's a friggin' mess," one official said.
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