US demonstrates significant commitment to actively assist development of fighting capabilities of anti-Daesh forces in Syria and Iraq, thus potentially making demonstrable contribution to tactical victories in the conflict in order to buy time for a political settlement.
As we continue to witness an all-but-successful Geneva process that aspires to lead to a political settlement of the Syria conflict, we are encouraged by what appears to be demonstrable commitment of the US to invest additional operational resources to assist Syrian Arab units to regain control of Al-Raqqa, which remains the stronghold and recognizable brand of Daesh.
As Daesh militia continue to gain territory and pose legitimate threat to opposition-controlled areas of northern Syria, including direct threat to opposition’s tactical artery that is the Turkish border crossing of Bab-al-Salama, pro-Assad forces supported by Russia remain the most significant threat to the opposition-held Aleppo, control of which is considered the key indicator of balance of powers amongst the principal armed actors in the Syrian conflict. Syrian opposition’s scarce military resources that are largely dedicated to retaining strategic control of Aleppo, coupled with the predominantly Sunni population of Al-Raqqa which limits their ability to leverage military resources from the Kurdish-controlled north-east, present an issue that calls for international reinforcement.
This did not go unnoticed by the US administration.
On April 25, President Obama announced that an additional 250 personnel will be deployed to Syria, including an unspecified number of Special Forces. This significant reinforcement to the modest 50-strong contingent of US personnel currently on the ground in Syria will focus on reinforcing Syrian Arab ability to re-gain control of Al-Raqqa, as Kurdish forces take the back seat in the campaign.
Along with the recent announcement that the Department of Defense will be deploying an additional 200 personnel to support Iraqi forces in an effort to retake the Daesh-held city of Mosul, this represents significant commitment of the US to actively assist development of fighting capabilities of anti-Daesh forces in Syria and Iraq, thus potentially making demonstrable contribution to tactical victories in the conflict in order to buy time for a political settlement.
Contrary to prior US involvement in similar conflicts, this appears to be a well-planned, targeted and efficient effort designed to maximize effect on the ground whilst minimizing US personnel involvement, which is an approach that will likely echo well with US administration’s audience at home.
This appears to be a win-win scenario for the US and the rebels that we must continue to watch.
Angus Carlson-Knowles is a violent extremism analyst and researcher. He provides real-time conflict analysis and policy advice to government, corporate and humanitarian communities.
Featured picture: Courtesy of Al-Jazeera