Antiwar.com & Agence France-Presse & Reuters & Darius Shahtahmasebi / The AntiMedia – 2017-12-10 20:44:23
Pentagon: US Troops to Remain in Syria
Deployment Will Continue ‘As Long as Necessary’
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(December 5, 2017) — Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon announced on Tuesday that the US intends, as a matter of policy, to keep ground troops in Syria “as long as necessary,” irrespective of the fact that ISIS, the group they were initially deployed to fight, has almost no territory left in the country.
Pahon says US troops are going to stay to “support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups,” both goals which, one must note, are absolutely open-ended, and unlikely to ever be declared “accomplished.”
Though the Pentagon had long been very public about the fact that their deployment to Iraq was a permanent one, the war in Syria is different, in no small part because the Syrian government never authorized US troops to deploy there, and isn’t supporting the idea of them staying.
Instead of making it lawful, US officials are playing up the idea that a “new ISIS” could emerge at any moment, rising as if magic from the desert sands, and the US wants to have troops deployed in such areas just in case.
Pentagon Signals Open-ended Troop Commitment in Syria
Thomas Watkins / Agence France-Presse
WASHINGTON (December 5, 2017) — The US military plans on staying in Syria as long as necessary to ensure the Islamic State group does not return, a Pentagon official told AFP on Tuesday, as the fight against the jihadists winds down.
“We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to — to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said.
The United States currently has approximately 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria, where they have been helping train and advise Kurdish and Arab partner forces in the fight against IS.
Now that the jihadists have been cleared from all but a few pockets of territory, the United States is assessing its future presence in the civil war-torn nation. Pahon said the US troop commitment would be “conditions-based,” meaning no timeline will determine any pull out.
“To ensure an enduring defeat of ISIS, the coalition must ensure it cannot regenerate, reclaim lost ground or plot external attacks,” he said. “The United States will sustain a ‘conditions-based’ military presence in Syria to combat the threat of a terrorist-led insurgency, prevent the resurgence of ISIS, and to stabilize liberated areas.”
Syria’s conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests, but quickly spiraled into a bitter and complex civil war, with IS just one element in a shifting matrix of players.
The US military, along with other nations in a US-led coalition, began bombing IS in late 2014 but until now has largely declined to address what its role in the tangled conflict might be after the jihadists are beaten.
“We are going to be in Syria for some time yet. I don’t want to say that’s 10 years, I also don’t want to say it’s not,” Pahon said. “What people should not expect is that we are going to see the last ISIS guy die and then we are going to abandon our partners.”
The military’s “conditions-based” phrase to define troop commitments is in part a reaction to the administration of Barack Obama, which insisted on a calendar-based withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. The move bitterly angered US commanders, who saw it as giving the Taliban a countdown on when they could resume operations in earnest.
Russia and Iran
The open-ended US commitment in Syria will likely rile Russia, which since late 2015 has conducted a separate military campaign to prop up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Unlike Russia, the United States is not in Syria at the request or approval of the Damascus government. Washington has cited Article 51 of a UN charter allowing for self-defense of partner forces as legal justification for its military engagement, and that will remain the case going forward.
Russia has claimed its presence is primarily to thwart jihadist groups but the Pentagon says only a tiny portion of Russian strikes have targeted IS.
Moscow doesn’t “appear to have a plan on how to bring a meaningful conclusion to the civil war that addresses the fundamental problems that led to the rise of ISIS, nor do they appear to be serious about the withdrawal of Iranian-backed militias,” Pahon said.
Still, successive US administrations have themselves been criticized for failing to articulate a coherent plan for Syria, and the elapsed time has seen Russian and Iranian influence bloom.
Pahon stressed the US would maintain its support for the Kurdish-Arab alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that have done most of the ground fighting against IS and which Sunday on announced the end of operations against IS.
America’s support to the SDF has infuriated NATO ally Turkey, which sees the Kurdish component as “terrorists.”
“Operating under recognized international authorities, the US military will continue to support local partner forces in Syria to stabilize liberated territory,” Pahon said.
These efforts will include restoration of essential services, de-mining and removal of explosive materials, as well as facilitating the flow of humanitarian aid. “This will also set the conditions for internally displaced people and refugees to safely return,” Pahon added.
More than 340,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the Syrian war, and millions have been displaced.
UN-backed peace talks are ongoing in Geneva, and Pahon said the US continues to support these as the “only path to a legitimate political resolution to the conflict.”
US-Led Coalition: Less Than 3,000 ISIS Fighters
Left in Iraq, Syria: Smallest Estimate for ISIS Size in Years
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(December 5, 2017) — US-led coalition spokesman Col Ryan Dillon announced on Tuesday that the current coalition estimate is that there are less than 3,000 ISIS left total in Iraq and Syria, by far the smallest estimate in years.
US estimates on ISIS force levels have never been great, usually hovering around the 20,000-30,000 level during the course of the ISIS war, but many times claimed to have killed more fighters than ISIS was believed to have, and the estimated levels never went down, until now.
With under 3,000 ISIS left, the justification for US deployments in Iraq and Syria are getting flimsier, though officials were quick to insist that US troops are staying irrespective of whether ISIS remains active or not.
US officials have long said troops inside Iraq would remin, and more recently have also said they have no intention of removing their troops from Syria any time soon, despite there not being any Syrian government permission to stay.
Coalition Says Fewer than
3,000 IS Fighters Remain in Iraq and Syria
Ahmed Aboulenein / Reuters
BAGHDAD (December 5, 2017) — The United States-led international coalition fighting Islamic State estimates that fewer than 3,000 fighters belonging to the hardline Sunni militant group remain in Iraq and Syria, its spokesman said on Tuesday.
Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate has crumbled this year in Syria and Iraq, with the group losing the cities of Mosul, Raqqa and swathes of other territory.
“Current estimates are that there are less than 3,000 #Daesh fighters left – they still remain a threat, but we will continue to support our partner forces to defeat them,” U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon tweeted, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
Dillon’s tweet was part of his responses to an online question and answer session in which he also said the coalition had trained 125,000 members of Iraqi security forces, 22,000 of which were Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.
When asked if the United States planned to build permanent military bases in Iraq or Syria the defeat of Islamic State, Dillon said it would not. “No – the Government of #Iraq knows where and how many from Coalition are here to support operation to defeat #Daesh; all bases are #Iraqi led,” he tweeted.
The coalition will begin a transition from focusing on retaking territory to consolidating gains, it later said in a statement following a meeting of its leaders with Iraqi military commanders.
“We will continue to support our Iraqi partners in the battle against ISIS (Islamic State) with training, equipment, advice and assistance,” said Major General Felix Gedney, the coalition’s Deputy Commander for Strategy and Support.
“The next phase will focus on the provision of lasting security, while developing Iraqi sustainability and self-sufficiency,” he said.
The coalition was responsible for “liberating more than 4.5 million Iraqis and over 52,200 square kilometres of territory,” the statement said. It has come under fire, however, for the number of civilian casualties resulting from the air strikes it carries out in support of local forces.
The coalition says its strikes have unintentionally killed at least 801 civilians between August 2014 and October 2017, a far lower figure than figures provided by monitoring groups.
The monitoring group Airwars says at least 5,961 civilians have been killed by coalition air strikes.
The coalition says it goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties and that it is still assessing 695 reports of such casualties from strikes in Iraq and in Syria.
The US Just Announced It Will Stay in Syria
Even After ISIS Is Defeated: Here’s Why
Darius Shahtahmasebi / The AntiMedia
(December 6, 2017) — According to Newsweek, despite calls from Russia and Iran for the US to abandon its illegal invasion of Syria, the Pentagon has just announced its intention to maintain its troop presence in the country even after ISIS is successfully defeated.
“We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups,” Pentagon spokesperson Eric Pahon told Agence France-Presse. “To ensure an enduring defeat of ISIS, the coalition must ensure it cannot regenerate, reclaim lost ground, or plot external attacks,” Pahon added.
The US reportedly has at least 1,723 troops in Syria, up from the 1,251 figure reported in June.
Even if these concerns regarding ISIS are genuine, one should wonder why the US feels responsible for ensuring that ISIS cannot regenerate, reclaim lost ground, or plot further attacks. The premise completely undermines Syria’s sovereignty and the competency of its allies, who are more than capable of defeating ISIS without external western intervention. In fact, western intervention has not provided Syria with nearly as much of the stability or security it claims to have.
A report published in April by the London-based IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center, a leading security analysis agency, found a whopping 43 percent of ISIS’ battles between April 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017, were fought against the Syrian military and its allies (including Iran, Russia, and pro-government militias).
It is a blatant lie that these countries need America’s help to do what they are already doing, when American-backed forces accounted for a mere 17 percent of the action.
And what do we know about the US troops already stationed in Syria? To put it bluntly, we know very little, but what we have been able to ascertain should be enough to make the ordinary American question the role the United States is playing across the geopolitical chessboard.
According to Rolling Stone:
“The troops on the ground include personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, but the government won’t say exactly how many, where they’re located, what precisely they’re doing or how long they’ll stay. A few have died and a good deal more have been injured in combat, but like almost everything else about the US presence in Syria, the number of wounded is classified.
“Despite the scale of the operation, the Pentagon insists on black-ops secrecy, refusing to embed reporters, and channeling all information through spokesmen in Baghdad. Turkey and Iraq have imposed a blockade on Syria that prevents most independent reporters from getting anywhere near American forces on the battlefield, and soldiers are apparently under orders not to answer questions or allow themselves to be photographed.” [emphasis added]
Not to mention that the US already has at least fourteen bases in Syria.
We also already know that US Marines deployed to Syria were not there to “advise and assist,” as has been typically argued, but were actually on the frontlines battling ISIS militants.
According to Army Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, the Marine fire blasting ISIS was so intense that the barrels on two of the Howitzers burned out, making them unsafe to use. The US was allegedly firing on ISIS in Raqqa “every minute of every hour” in order to keep the pressure up on the terrorist group.
Who authorized this invasion of Syria? And who authorized American troops to be on the front lines in another war in a country that has branded American troops as invaders?
But because the troops are fighting against ISIS, it doesn’t matter, right? International law is worthless, as long as we are fighting ISIS (in a country that is already fighting them without our help).
Just imagine if Syria or Russia did this to the United States — invaded America and set up bases under the guise of fighting terrorism. No self-respecting American would accept this. The US country puts travel bans on brown people for a reason.
Further, it was admittedly Washington’s policies that placed ISIS squarely in Syria in the first place by sitting on its hands and allowing ISIS to gain as much territory as it could in order justify a military intervention. The BBC has confirmed that the US has granted free passage to ISIS fighters when it suits America’s warped foreign policy strategy.
No one is debating these developments in Congress or in the UN, and these violations of international law are going unchallenged. If this isn’t enough to wake up the average American, then perhaps the world needs to understand that the reason these troops will stay in Syria has nothing at all to do with ISIS, but is instead aimed at creating a buffer between Iran and the rest of the Middle East, which could lay the groundwork for an all-out confrontation with Iran and its allies.
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