In a new embarrassment for US foreign policy, a bunch of American-supplied gear has just been turned over to an al-Qaida affiliate in Syria. After initial denials by the DoD, a Pentagon spokesman admitted that a group of New Syrian Forces fighters had given the al Nusra Front six pickup trucks and a load of ammunition in exchange for safe passage through jihadist lines and into Turkey.
It’s hard to get too surprised about this. In the west, we tend to assume that Arabs are mostly motivated by religion. That’s not even close to true. Yes, Islam is an important factor for many people, but so is, for example, tribalism. And then there’s trade. The Middle East has been one of the world’s major trade hubs for somewhere upwards of five thousand years, and bartering is deeply embedded in the local culture. If a group of rebels want something – like safe passage – and the group they want it from wants something else, nothing is more natural than to sit down with a pot of coffee and haggle over it for a day or two. The whole region is a giant bazaar and pretty much anything is up for sale. So the news that the NSF had swapped some trucks and ammo for a ticket across the border doesn’t amaze me in the slightest. What does baffle me is that the USA is still training Syrian rebels in the first place.
Recently, I talked about the west’s obsession with removing Bashar al-Assad from power in Syria. This is not a position I agree with; I know that ending Ba’athist rule has been a long-term goal of some US allies in the region, but that’s not good enough. The overthrow of Assad might be good news for Israel and Saudi Arabia, but it would be bad news for the USA. All it would achieve is to create another fanatically anti-western Sunni state. Unfortunately, that’s what training these rebels seems to be aimed at.
If the USA doesn’t want to commit major ground forces to the war against ISIS, the only alternative is to give massive fire support to local proxies, and let them provide the infantry. The NSF seems to be an attempt to create a suitable proxy, but it’s a futile one. The numbers involved are pitiful – a few dozen new fighters every couple of weeks – and dwarfed by the contribution made by the Kurds and Yazidis. Unlike the NSF, these groups also stand and fight, instead of fleeing back into Turkey whenever they see a jihadist. Unfortunately, their profligate use of woman fighters, and often leftist politics, make them unpalatable to various regional powers. Well so what? All we want forces like the YPG to do is kill jihadis and drive them out of as much territory as possible. If their politics upset the Turks or their gender equality upsets the Saudis, that’s just too bad.
Syria has plenty of rebels already; there’s no need to train more. What the USA and NATO have to do is identify groups whose aims coincide with ours – whether that annoys our “regional partners” or not – and use our technology and firepower to help them as much as we can. There’s no point in wasting money creating yet another faction. The Middle East spawns armed groups well enough without our help.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.