Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Special Forces in Syria

In the five years of the civil war, over 250,000 people have been killed.[1] An additional 11 million people are displaced.[2] A massive refugee crisis has increased attention on the region. To help combat this crisis, the United States has not only conducted bombing campaigns, but sent in Special Forces as well. The Obama administration has continually relied on Special Forces to conduct covert operations over the use of large amounts of troops on the ground.[3] This cuts down on the risk of casualties and the cost of operations. The U.S. Air Force and Special Forces presence in Syria has helped fight ISIS and supported anti-ISIS rebels (most of which are anti-Assad). Throughout the process the U.S. has supported an end to the conflict and a peaceful solution. However, others in the region have used this conflict as a proxy. As with all Middle East conflicts, many wars are complex and entwined in religious differences. Syria is no different with Iran and Russia supporting the Assad regime while Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf allies support anti-Assad rebels.[4] Recent increase in Saudi participation is partly due to religious disputes between Iran and Saudi Arabia over a Shiite cleric’s execution.[5]

            Besides U.S. presence of Special Forces and various Western nations’ bombing campaigns against ISIS, the U.S. has been offered to lead a coalition of Saudi and UAE Special Forces.[6] Turkey has also supported a coalition of ground forces. However, this possible action has directly been addressed by Russian leaders, stating “any ground operations in Syria would led to a ‘full-fledged war.”[7]
            In order to prevent further escalation of conflict, the U.S. limits itself to Special Forces training, advising, and strategic bombing campaigns. A further involvement of U.S. military in leading a coalition of Saudi and Turkish forces would create more tension in U.S. relations in the Middle East and lead to further conflict. The U.S. should advise Saudi Arabia to resist sending in ground troops due to the possibility of further escalating religious conflict with Iran in the region. An increase in troops from more countries drastically increases the chance of an escalation in war. Yemen is already being used as a stage for the regional powers between Iran and Saudi Arabia.[8] All sides should continue joint bombing campaigns against ISIS, allow Syrians to represent their own cause, and push all sides to the negotiating table to resolve the conflict peacefully. The U.S. should continue to push the message that the Syrian people deserve to promote any desired change through the democratic process. A ceasefire by all sides should continue to be the immediate focus.

[1] BBC Associated Press; “Syria: The Story of the Conflict”;; Feb. 3, 2016;
[2] Id.
[3] Schmidle, Nicholas; “Getting Bin Laden”; The New Yorker; Aug. 8, 2011;
[4] Perry, Tom; Mason, Jeff; “Obama Urges Russia to Stop Bombing Moderate Syria Rebels”; Feb. 14, 2016;
[5] Id..
[6] Reuters Associated Press; Saudi Troop Deployment in Syria Up to U.S.- led coalition”;; Feb. 14, 2016;
[7] Supra note 1.

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