Hagel Warns Syria Strategy
October 31, 2014
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Richard Sisk / Military.com & Reuters
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice which was deeply critical of the administration's military strategy in the ongoing ISIS war in Syria, saying the plan was "in danger of unraveling." The memo, described by officials familiar with it, centered on the lack of an endgame strategy as well as the inability of the administration to clarify its intentions toward the Assad government.
Hagel Blasts Syria Strategy in Memo
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(October 30, 2014) -- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice which was deeply critical of the administration's military strategy in the ongoing ISIS war in Syria, saying the plan was "in danger of unraveling."
The memo, described by officials familiar with it, centered on the lack of an endgame strategy as well as the inability of the administration to clarify its intentions toward the Assad government.
Hagel warned the fighting in Syria could go on for years without any clear end, and that Syrian President Bashar Assad was deriving benefits from the US campaign.
The memo was much more critical than Hagel has been in comments publicly, and declined to discuss the specifics of the memo, saying only that he felt he owes the president "honesty."
The lack of an endgame strategy has been something analysts have been pointing out for quite some time, as the US talks up backing a moderate rebel force that they haven't even begun attempting to create, and which is going to take at least a year to be in any sort of form. Hagel's memo acknowledges this in a way that officials haven't publicly, and suggests that even if they don't want to admit it, the problem is very much on their minds.
The issue with Assad is even more complicated, as the administration publicly insists it still wants regime change, but is clearly coordinating, at least secretly, with the Syrian military.
Hagel: US Faces Setbacks and
Complications in ISIS Fight
Richard Sisk / Military.com
(October 30, 2014) -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey gave mixed reviews Thursday to the progress made by US and Iraq forces in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The top US military officials said the US and Iraqis have suffered setbacks in efforts to protect Sunni tribes in Iraq and form a "moderate" opposition force in Syria.
"We are constantly assessing and reassessing and adapting" on a strategy to defeat ISIS that Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, has said will take three to four years, Hagel said at a Pentagon briefing with Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Hagel said that the "complicated" and evolving strategy depended on holding together a fractious coalition of Middle Eastern countries committed to the main goal of rooting out ISIS.
"We've got to manage through the realities of what we have in front of us with some longer-term strategies," Hagel said. "We're constantly working through options."
Read the full story here.
Hagel Will Not Discuss 'Critical' Syria Memo
WASHINGTON (October 30, 2014) -- US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stressed the need for honesty in internal government discussions on Thursday as he declined comment on a two-page internal memo he wrote on Syria policy, described as critical by people familiar with its contents.
The memo from Hagel to White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice was first reported by the New York Times, which said he warned President Barack Obama's Syria policy was in jeopardy due to its failure to clarify its intentions toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Two people familiar with its contents, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters they agreed with the description of the memo by the Times as critical.
Asked about the memo, Hagel told a Pentagon news conference: "We owe the president and we owe the National Security Council our best thinking on this."
"And it has to be honest and it has to be direct," Hagel said, without citing areas of disagreement.
Obama faces criticism at home and abroad for looking at the crisis in Syria almost exclusively through the threat of the Islamic State, while failing to address attacks by Assad's forces that undermine the opposition that Washington will ultimately need.
The Obama administration's position is that Assad must go but it hopes to defer that challenge until later to focus on Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
Hagel suggested that the future governance of Syria needs to be at the core of American actions, now centered around air strikes against Islamic State targets and plans for training Syrian opposition forces.
"The fighting can go on for years and years to what end? … It's in our interest not to have an unstable Middle East," Hagel said, stressing the need to manage current threats while focusing on "some longer term strategies and objectives."
(Reporting by Phil Stewart and David Alexander; Editing by Bernard Orr)
US Airstrikes Divide ‘Moderate’ Syria Rebels, al-Qaeda
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(October 30, 2014) -- The invention of "Khorasan" as a faction in Syria was meant to disguise that the US attacks in Syria were targeting not just ISIS, but also Jabhat al-Nusra, the local al-Qaeda affiliate whose members were attacked under the guise of targeting Khorasan.
The attacks were unpopular among the "moderate" rebels the US is always talking up, who noted Nusra is a close ally of theirs. Or at least, they were a close ally.
With the US attacking Nusra, the pro-US rebels are now facing retaliation from Nusra fighters, and it's yet another enemy they can't actually beat, leading them to push the US for even more aid.
The US seems to have given up on the existing moderate rebels and is preparing to create a new faction in the years to come, but the attacks are reflecting both the unsavory nature of the existing US allied rebels, and how little thought went into expanding the war against Nusra.
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