Pressure has begun to mount against the Obama administration for unwillingness to commit troops to the Syrian conflict. The administration has stood by the strategy of air power and proxy forces leading the fight against ISIS for several reasons. First, against a terror organization that is determined to establish a caliphate, bombing can provide the ability to destroy key infrastructure needed. Secondly, air power manages to keep military personnel out of considerable harm’s way. This alone has made air power attractive to the Obama administration. Finally, the use of proxy or rebel forces allows the solution to seem more organic. If troops from the Middle East solve the Syrian crisis, the region gains stability from within rather than relying on the United States.
While this strategy has been effective for the large part, there are several reason why special operations forces may present a logical solution to bolster the U.S. strategy. First, special operations troops provide a unique opportunity to gather intel within the region. This intel can be used to capture targets but most importantly, intel helps direct air strikes for the future. By having a ground force to understand terrain and where the enemy is located, airstrikes become more effective. Secondly, having special operations units in Syria, real time airstrikes can be observed by these forces. This allows for effective re-engagement if the initial strikes are ineffective.
Secondly, S.O. units play a role in advising local ground troops. This direct communication helps establish a report with local units. This bond will be critical when directing troops in combat. Additionally, the presence of U.S. troops within the region may allow for the U.S. and Russia, while they have different aims, to work together to defeat ISIS.
Special operations units have always had a unique role in conflict. While it is unreasonable to ask these forces to carry the weight of the entire Syrian conflict on their shoulders, they can play a unique role with air power and as advisers. The presence of S.O. units only bolsters the chance of a U.S. strategy being effective.