Derechos | Equipo Nizkor
Syria Is Now Mr. Trump's War
As a candidate, Donald Trump warned against foreign wars, not least in Syria. A year into his presidency, he is adding Syria to a list of open-ended conflicts that already includes Afghanistan and Iraq.
We know President Trump's plan not because he asked Congress for authorization and funding for a continuing troop presence in Syria. We know because Secretary of State Rex Tillerson explained it in a speech on Wednesday at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. "The United States will maintain a military presence in Syria focused on ensuring ISIS cannot re-emerge," he said. "Our military mission in Syria will remain conditions-based." In other words, without any end date or public benchmarks for success.
As of last month, there were about 2,000 American troops in Syria – up from 500 a year ago – a mix of engineering units and Special Operations units that fight and train with local militias in the battle against the Islamic State. Now that we know they will be there indefinitely, who can say the number won't go higher and the mission won't creep more?
Syria is a complex problem. But this plan seems poorly conceived, too dependent on military action and fueled by wishful thinking.
The United States initiated military action in Syria to confront ISIS, which overran huge areas of Syria and Iraq in 2014. Military operations under President Barack Obama and the Trump administration liberated more than 98 percent of the territory previously controlled by the Islamic State and freed over 7.5 million people from brutal rule.
While that progress is significant, ISIS and Al Qaeda remain major threats, David Satterfield, a senior State Department official, told a Senate committee last week. The administration says it wants to avoid what it considers mistakes by Mr. Obama, who withdrew troops from Iraq only to see extremists re-emerge, and who failed, with European allies, to stabilize Libya after NATO airstrikes led to the overthrow of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
But the goals in Syria are so sweeping they may be unattainable, thus leaving American troops there in perpetuity. As outlined by Mr. Tillerson, the administration intends that ISIS and Al Qaeda "suffer an enduring defeat" and that Syria "never again" be a terrorist haven. It also wants the Syrian civil war resolved through a political process that produces a stable Syria with President Bashar al-Assad gone.
A comprehensive political agreement ending the conflict between Mr. Assad and Syrian rebels is crucial. It's also what Mr. Obama tried and failed to achieve, largely because of resistance from Mr. Assad and his Russian and Iranian enablers. It's hard to see what will be different now.
Mr. Tillerson called for more diplomacy, but he wants the United Nations, not the United States, to lead. He hopes to prevent Iran, whose forces helped save Mr. Assad's embattled regime, from strengthening its foothold in Syria and threatening Israel and other countries. Defeating ISIS used to be the priority. Now Washington also aims to ensure that Iranian influence on the region is diminished, he said.
There is no question that the United States should work to curb Iran's malignant activities. But Mr. Tillerson described an agenda that suggests an alarming eagerness to confront Iran, perhaps even militarily.
The Americans are also sending mixed messages about reports that they will use their 2,000 troops to train their allies in the anti-ISIS campaign, Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, who are the majority of a 30,000-member border force that will be tasked with protecting the emerging semiautonomous Kurdish enclave. Turkey, which views the Kurds as an enemy, has threatened a cross-border assault. All of this raises the grim possibility that American troops will clash with Turkey, a NATO ally.
"How does this not become an unending war?" Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, asked Mr. Satterfield, who replied with some political buzzwords. The American people deserve a real answer.
[Source: By Editorial Board, The New York Times, 19Jan18]
War in Syria
|This document has been published on 22Jan18 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.|