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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Are We Comfortable Paying Others To Confront Our Threats?

Link: What Is The Free Syrian Army?

House Votes to Arm "Free Syrian Army".

We are living in fascinating times.  The President of the United States has declared that the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group (which was originally Al-Qaeda in Iraq, then morphed into Islamic State of Al-Sharm, followed by Islamic State of the Levant) is a threat to the security of the United States, and that the United States will not use ground forces to combat IS.  Apparently IS has become too organized and prolific to destroy by bombing alone, so the United States decides to fund, train and equip the "New Syrian Army" (NSA; see first link).  I assume that the Administration huddled with intel folks to determine which anti-IS element in Syria would be the most palatable to the American people.  The Administration chose the group that was less likely to morph into an Islamic fundamentalist movement on down the road.  NSA traces it roots to a few disgruntled members of the Syrian Army officer cadre.  They have had success recruiting not only former Syrian soldiers, but also Kurds, Alawis, Palestinians, Turkmens, and Druze.  Considering the majority of members (and the leadership) are Sunni Muslims, the inclusion of other ethnic and religious fighters is an important element.  IS conducts itself as a functioning army, and has occupied a number of cities throughout Syria.  On a whole, the territory controlled by the NAS pales in comparison to areas occupied by IS and regular Syrian Army.  This fact demonstrates the traditional military perspective of NAS.  It is more important to control the transportation and communication nodes (read: cities) than it is to possess large swaths of desert.  Up to this point, the NAS does not appear to have a religious motive.  The goal has always been the removal from power of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Ba'ath Party.  Numerous human rights groups claim that NAS has participated in war crimes, but finding someone in this mess who hasn't would be an impossible task.

The Obama Administration does not expect NAS to ratchet up its activities until equipment has been delivered and training has been conducted (I assume the training will be conducted by elements of both the CIA and the U.S. Army).  A high percentage of NAS troops are former military or have military training already, so this should accelerate the process.  It appears that the "four month" mark is when we should expect to see an increase in NAS activity.  Until then, the United States Air Force and France's Armee de l'Air (and whoever else Obama can convince to join his coalition) will be bombing the shit out of IS targets. Military strategy argues that a focused bombing campaign should prioritize supply routes, but I think we will have enough firepower to hit the enemy everywhere.  If we stay committed and manage to round up a few allies, the NAS can be molded into a first-rate military force.  No doubt that if the Obama Administration had taken the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and stayed in Iraq long enough to complete the training of the Iraqi military, we wouldn't have to take this "Mujahideen"-like risk.  When a decision is made to arm a foreign element with weapons paid for by the U.S. people, we assume the responsibility of those weapons.  Its a different circumstance altogether when military equipment from a U.S. company is purchased by another nation (such as F16 to Taiwan and Black Hawk Helicopters to Austria).  In reality, we have no idea what will become of the equipment we provide to the NAS (I for one was not expecting the Iraqi Army to desert in mass exodus prior to its first engagement, leaving tons of U.S.-supplied military hardware for IS to pick up).  I am also concerned about what the NAS will become if it succeeds in toppling Assad.  The leaders of the NAS are all former Syrian military officers and during their careers, must have been exposed to all sorts of corruption and nepotism. 

Are we involved with the NAS to destroy the IS or to topple the Assad regime?  Will IS have two enemies on the battlefield?  Does the Obama Administration intend to fund the NAS until both Assad and IS are defeated?  Why haven't these legitimate questions been addressed?  As is the habit with this Administration, we seem to be diving head-long into something with no real end-game strategy.  Would we recognize an NAS government, or would we demand elections?  What if the NAS says, screw your elections, we are the government now (which is what will happen if we fund the NAS enough to defeat both IS and the regular Syrian Army).  Has anyone in the Administration or Congress commented on how much this effort will cost the American taxpayer?  In recent months (with help from Hillary's buddy Vlad Putin in Moscow, no doubt) the regular Syrian Army has reconstituted itself.  Assad's Army has aggressively and ruthlessly fought for every inch of ground, and shows no sign of internal conflict.  I can only assume that the Administration, in choosing to back the NAS, envisions a scenario in which elements of the Syrian Army desert and join the NAS.  As this conflict grows, the NAS must formulate a plan to combat both the regular Syrian Army and IS.  Of course, Washington DC is only concerned with destroying IS.  Has the NAS agreed to focus exclusively on OUR enemy (IS), or will the weapons we provide be aimed at elements of the regular Syrian Army?  Will the U.S. Air Force also target regular Syrian Army positions?  What if a NAS unit is surrounded by regular Syrian Army forces.  Will the U.S. (and coalition) air elements intervene?  If we do, then I can assure you, the Russians will have something to say.  Will the NAS pursue IS targets into Iraq?  The decision to use NAS as surrogate ground forces in our war against IS comes with a nightmare collection of "what ifs".

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union faced-off in many locations around the world.  On more than one occasion that United States and the Soviets came to near-blows over issues in the Near East.  The U.S. supported Israel and the Russians provided arms to the Syrians and the Egyptians.  Although the Cold War has ended (per se), Russia continues to view Syria as a close ally.  Sooner or later our involvement in the Syrian conflict will compel Putin to increase Russian support for the Assad regime.  Arming NAS has the real possibility of bringing us into conflict with Russia.  The Administration has gone to great lengths not to antagonize the Russians in eastern Europe (sanctions only-still no military aid for Ukraine).  If the Russians stand aside and allow the NAS to form a government, with the Israelis be comfortable with another militarized Syria on its border?  In a worst-case scenario, we could see U.S. equipment handled by NAS being used against Israelis, who might also be carrying U.S. military hardware.

It must be apparent that I do not support the arming of NAS to combat the IS.  Too many times we have provided equipment that seems to fall into the hands of our enemies (or our friends become our enemies, as in the case of the Afghani Mujahideen).  Also I am offended to the core that we would consider paying others to do our dirty work.  If the IS is a threat to the security of the United States, then the IS should be destroyed by the U.S. military.  Isn't that the raison d'etre of our armed forces? Have we reached the point of decadence in our society that we feel others should be paid to die in proxy?  Here's a novel idea: why not take all the money that we spend to fund defense, and use it to pay others to fight our wars?  I believe IS is a threat to our national security, as Al-Qaeda continues to be.  But once we have made the decision that a group is a direct threat to our freedom, then we need to utilize every resource we have at our disposal to destroy the enemy quickly.  Wars must be fought to the fullest, and brought to a conclusion as quickly as possible.  History shows us that this method of approach to war will result in the fewest collateral casualties.  When conflicts are drawn out, people suffer.  I believe we should use ground forces to attack IS from all directions, including Syria, Iraq and Kurdistan.  We should use as many troops as necessary, in concert with our military air elements, to finish the job quickly.  IS must be obliterated.  If we attack the IS target full-force, with our NAS and Kurdish allies, we would destroy all remnants of IS and Al-Qaeda.  The fact that we did not completely destroy Al-Qaeda in Iraq is why we must now deal with the IS.  In fact, we are pulling out of Afghanistan while Al-Qaeda hides in Pakistan.  Once we are gone, the Taliban will welcome al-Qaeda back, and Afghanistan will join Iraq as diplomatic failures of the U.S. government.  Our young men and women in uniform did an outstanding job in both Iraq and Afghanistan, only to be let-down by the fat politicians back in Washington DC.

The use of NAS to combat IS is nothing more than the contracting out of mercenaries to fight our conflict.  If NAS is successful against IS, will they return the equipment we provided, or will it be used to strengthen their hold on Syria?  Will a NAS government in Damascus be hostile to Israel?  There is no doubt in my mind.  As was the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have no way of determining what kind of government we are helping to create.  I don't like the NAS.  As recent members of the regular Syrian Army, they can be no strangers to lobbing rounds of ammunition down on Israeli Kibbutz settlements in northern Israel.  Arming the NAS is a textbook example of  "the enemy of my enemy is my friend".  I have three critical questions for the Obama Administration.  Will NAS be continuing its campaign against the Assad regime while also attacking the IS?  Will the U.S. (and coalition) Air Force be targeting regular Syrian Army elements?  What is the diplomatic strategy for the Levant after IS has been defeated? 

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