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Despite Trump rhetoric, US will take pragmatic Syria approach

Pentagon says more American troops may be needed to speed up the fight in Syria

Gulf News

Washington: A new US military strategy seems to be emerging under the Trump administration which seems to suggest the administration has a more nuanced view of the Daesh problem.

Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the US should be careful that in solving the Daesh problem it does not create others, hinting at the sensitive question of how to deal with Turkey, which is a Nato ally with much at stake in neighbouring Syria, and Russia, whose military action in Syria has had the effect of propping up the Syrian regime.

Trump signed an executive order on January 28 giving Defence Secretary James Mattis 30 days to present a “preliminary draft” of a plan and recent developments in Syria seem to indicate that parts of that plan are being implemented, as the US has boosted its visibility in northern Syria where it advises a group of mainly Kurdish rebels.

Asked if adding more US troops or arming the Syrian Kurds was under discussion, Mattis said he will “accommodate any request” from his field commanders.

“We owe some degree of confidentiality on exactly how we’re going to do that and the sequencing of that fight so that we don’t expose to the enemy what it is we have in mind in terms of the timing of the operations,” Mattis told reporters.

Army General Joseph Votel, the commander of US Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Mideast, has said more American troops may be needed to speed up the fight in Syria.

The US currently has about 500 special operations forces in Syria helping to organise, advise and assist local forces.

One of the thorniest problems the Trump administration will consider is whether to change the US approach to Russia’s military role in Syria.

Although Trump has suggested an interest in working with Russia against Daesh, the Pentagon has been reluctant to go beyond military-to-military contacts aimed at avoiding accidents in the airspace over Syria.

Officials say providing more heavy equipment and arms to the US-backed Syrian Kurds is a likely — but politically sensitive — option.

Nato ally Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters, known as the YPG, a terrorist organisation.

But the YPG forms the main force to retake Raqqa, the Daesh terrorists’ self-proclaimed capital and base of operations, some in the Pentagon have suggested giving the Kurds heavy weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades.

 

 

 

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