In recent months, the contentious and nearly six-year-long conflict in Syria has been somewhat absent from the mainstream media. This is likely due to the fact that the Assad regime has had several major victories which have all but ensured the end of the Syrian opposition, its “moderate rebels,” and terror groups like the Islamic State (ISIS). Yet, the U.S. government – which has invested significant amounts of money, time, and military equipment on these opposition forces – is apparently not content to sit on the sidelines as Assad regains control of his won country. According to a recent CNN report, the Defense Department is considering proposing that the U.S. send conventional ground combat forces into Syria for the very first time. One defense official, speaking under anonymity, told CNN that “It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time,” adding that the move would be intended to allegedly speed up the fight against ISIS.
If approved, the move would drastically change the situation in Syria as it would put troops on the ground in Syria within weeks. So far, only small teams of mostly Special Operations (Special Ops) forces have been active in Syria, largely offering support to U.S.-backed “moderate rebels” who are ostensibly fighting ISIS despite the fact that some of these rebels are either directly or indirectly aligned with ISIS or al-Qaeda. However, the plan is still not being classified as a formal proposal and the defense officials who spoke to CNN insisted that President Trump would have to issue final approval before it could go into effect.
It is unusual, however, that the Pentagon believes that the presence of U.S. ground troops would help the fight against the Islamic State. Indeed, cooperation between Russia and Syria has been the most effective means of repelling ISIS advances in the region, culminating in the major victory of liberating the embattled city of Aleppo from ISIS and rebel hands. Trump had long promised to join forces with Russia and Syria to “eviscerate” ISIS; however, new controversies regarding the Trump administration’s ties to Russia have led the administration to recently announce that military cooperation with Russia is not currently within the realm of possibility.
However, last year, then-Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that the presence of foreign ground troops in Syria would risk a world war, saying that “the Americans and our Arab partners must consider whether or not they want a permanent war”, in response to a proposal that would have sent Saudi troops into Syria. Assad, for his part, said that he would welcome U.S. troops “without hesitation” if Trump espouses a “clear political stance, not only with regards to (the fight against) terrorism, but also about Syria’s sovereignty and unity.” In other words, Assad will only tolerate the presence of ground troops if they stick to their stated purpose, as opposed to long-held goal of the U.S. “deep state” – removing Assad from power. Thankfully, this latest development is still in the planning stage, meaning that there is still time to prevent the United States from involving itself in another costly war abroad.
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