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Saturday, October 31, 2015

ISIS bares its teeth in Syria, as Obama authorizes "boots on the ground" for U.S. troops.

Links: Obama authorizes use of U.S. troops in Syria.

On Friday, President Obama authorized the use of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria.  Not surprisingly, Obama waited until Friday to make the announcement, limiting the media response.  The Administration made it clear that the use of U.S. troops would be limited to special forces action, and the decision comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to expand Russian involvement in the Syrian conflict.  It was not immediately apparent what impact limited action by U.S. special forces would have, or if Russian and U.S. forces might come into contact.  Russia has not shied away from aggressive military action against U.S.-supported Syrian opposition.  If the United States decides to deploy U.S. troops, even in non-operational roles, a random Russian bombing raid could cause American casualties.  So even though "troops on the ground" have been authorized, don't expect to see it anytime soon, at least not in support of any of our so-called allies.
Until now, the Obama Administration had responded to increased Russian action in Syria with diplomatic commentary.  The decision to allow the use of U.S. ground troops is nothing more than an extension of that policy.  The Obama Administration has no intention of allowing U.S. troops to be directly involved in military action, especially following the death of a U.S. soldier in last week's successful joint operation with Kurdish forces to rescue a group of Kurdish prisoners.

On October 23, ISIS launched a major counteroffensive around the city of Aleppo.  In recent weeks, the Syrian regime, with support from Russian air elements, had retaken large areas in northeast Syria.  With a few exceptions, Russian bombing sorties focused on Syrian opposition positions.  While the world was focused on Russian and Syrian regime forces decimating the Syrian opposition, ISIS was preparing to take advantage of the new situation.  The ISIS attack put pressure on the main road which the regime uses to re-enforce Aleppo City from Homs and Hama Provinces.  ISIS also initiated attacks on Safira, a strategic town which is suspected of hiding some of the Assad regime's chemical weapons development.  The ease with which ISIS forces dispatched regime units in this week's attacks around Aleppo diminishes the impact of recent regime advances.  Since most of the groups opposed to the Assad regime are also opposed to ISIS, the Russian bombing sorties did much to aid the Islamic State.  As long as the Russian Air Force and regime forces limit their offensive efforts to attacking the Syrian opposition, ISIS will profit.  The current military situation in Aleppo provides a good example.

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