When last we left our heroes, the U.S. special operations forces, or SOF, had defeated ISIS’s hold on Raqqa, their ‘capital,’ late last year. The hope had been that the NATO reclaiming of Raqqa would mark a swift end to ISIS in Syria, with declining forces that would eventually die out.
Fortunately, taking back Raqqa did reduce the state like behavior that ISIS was acquiring. Unfortunately, this dissipated bulk forces and pushed the terror organization underground. Yes, thousands of fighters are fleeing Syria, but the fighting is far from over. Syrian ISIS members are going online and underground, even regrouping with Al-Qaeda in order to revamp their fight. Many ISIS members are returning to bombing soft targets in favor of NATO forces.
With this, the U.S. faces a growing issue in their management of COIN as a tactic on terrorist organization in the Middle East. US SOF have elicited contempt and fear throughout the Middle East by not only civilians but journalists. Aljazeera portrays SOF as out of control “bad-asses” that are not held accountable by the international community.
While SOCOM admits that SOF have been the “major supporting effort for U.S. [violent-extremist organization] focused operations” in the Middle East, they have been working to train NATO and other members, such as the Kurds, to aid in the fight in Syria. While SOCOM may claim SOF are here to aid the situation, the overall opinion is that SOF may be encouraging greater conflict, encouraging terrorist activity rather than quelling it.
So what are our boys up to now? SOF remain in Syria as boots on ground, hunting terrorists as reported in the news. However, they are doing more than simple search and destroy mission. Quietly, US forces have started nation building. Hundreds of millions of dollars are currently being given to Syria in efforts to build security forces and a stable government.
Photo Credit: CNN