All Is Not Quiet on the Syrian Front: US to Launch Another War
By Alex Gorka
December 30, 2017 "Information Clearing House" - This is a classic example of flip-flop policy. In November, the US promised Turkey to stop arming Kurdish militias in Syria after the Islamic State was routed. Brett McGurk, the US Special Presidential Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat Islamic State, explained that after the urban fighting in Raqqa was over "adjustments in the level of military support" would be made. "We had to give some equipment – and it's limited, extremely limited – all of which was very transparent to our NATO ally, Turkey," he said during a special briefing on December 21. In June, the US told Turkey it would take back weapons supplied to the Kurdish the People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in northern Syria after the defeat of Islamic State.
But sophisticated weapons will continue to
be sent to Syria in 2018, including
thousands of anti-tank rocket launchers,
heat seeking missiles and rocket launchers.
The list of weaponry and equipment was
prepared by US Department of Defense as part
of the 2018 defense budget and signed by
Trump of Dec. 12. It includes more than 300
non-tactical vehicles, 60 nonstandard
vehicles, and 30 earth-moving vehicles to
assist with the construction of outposts or
operations staging areas. The US defense
spending bill for 2018 ("Justification for
FY 2018 Overseas Contingency Operations /
Counter-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
Train and Equip Fund") includes providing
weapons worth $393 million to US partners in
Syria. Overall, $500 million, roughly $70
million more than last year, are to be spent
on Syria Train and Equip requirements. The
partners are the Kurds-dominated Syria
Democratic Forces (SDF). The YPG – the group
that is a major concern of Turkey – is the
backbone of this force.
The budget does not refer to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) but instead says “Vetted Syrian Opposition”. According to the budget list, there are 25,000 opposition forces supported as a part of the train and equip program in Syria. That number is planned to be increased to 30,000 in 2018. The arming of Kurdish militants with anti-tank rockets is a sensitive topic because of Turkey’s reliance on its armored Leopard tanks in northern Syria.
Talal Sillo, a former high-ranking commander and spokesperson of the US-backed SDF, who defected from the group last month to go to Turkey, divulged details of the US arming the Kurdish group.
The list does not detail which vetted Syrian groups will receive certain pieces of equipment. In northern Syria, there is the SDF, including the YPG, and the Syria Arab Coalition — a group of Arab fighters incorporated into the SDF. The Maghawir al-Thawra and Shohada al-Quartayn groups are operating in the southeastern part of Syria. They are being trained by US and British instructors at the al-Tanf border crossing between Syria and Iraq.
Never Miss Another Story
Besides the SDF and the groups trained at
al-Tanf, the US is in the process of creating the
New Syria Army to fight the Syrian
government forces. The training is taking
place at the Syrian Hasakah refugee camp
located 70 kilometers from the border
of Turkey and 50 kilometers from the border
Around 40 Syria opposition groups on Dec. 25 rejected to attend the planned Sochi conference on Syria scheduled to take place in January. They said Moscow, which organizes the conference, was seeking to bypass the UN-based Geneva peace process, despite the fact that UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said that Russia's plan to convene the congress should be assessed by its ability to contribute to and support the UN-led Geneva talks on ending the war in Syria. If fighting starts, these groups are likely to join the formations created by the US.
So, the United States not only maintains its illegal military presence in Syria and creates new forces to fight against the Syrian government, it appears to be preparing for a new war to follow the Islamic State’s defeat. The continuation of arming and training Kurdish militias will hardly improve Washington’s relations with Ankara, while saying one thing and doing another undermines the credibility of the United States as a partner.
This article was originally published by Strategic Culture Foundation -
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