The Wrong Syrian Strategy

The USA’s latest attempt to create a Syrian proxy force has just ended the same way as all of its predecessors – in total failure. The New Syrian Army had set out to capture an ISIS-held air base and, after initial successes, had been driven back by a jihadist counterattack. The force of around 200 lost four men, four vehicles and a substantial part of their spare ammunition.

“New Syrian Army” is a grandiose title for a group that currently is only about a thousand strong. It’s based in the north-east of Syria and made up from a ragtag collection of Syrian Army deserters, local militias and “moderate” islamists, which is not a promising start, but it’s had a lot of resources thrown at it. The men have been intensively trained by US and British special forces, so the quality of their instructors isn’t an issue. They’ve been equipped with off-road vehicles and their weapons are all US-supplied and modern, rather than the usual assortment of outdated Soviet, European and even Nazi-era guns found in Syria. The issue seems to be the quality of the troops themselves.

New Syrian ArmyThe New Syrian Army, according to reports, managed to capture the airbase at Hamdan before being surrounded by ISIS fighters and forced out. The last message sent by the unit before they retreated was “We are trapped, pray for us.” It certainly sounds like they were in a pretty desperate situation – but the casualty figures don’t back that up. My guess is that, after a fairly light contact, they bribed their way out by turning over vehicles and ammunition; not exactly an unheard-of solution in squabbles between Arab militias.

What’s annoying about this is that certain factions in the USA keep trying to create a new force in Syria. It’s hopeless – a complete waste of time. The fighting in Syria is now basically a three-way affair between fully developed sides; ISIS, the Syrian Armed Forces and the mostly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces. All three of these are, by local standards, pretty powerful, and any new group is going to struggle to make much of an impact.

The main problem seems to be that the administration’s strategy is still indecisive. If the goal is to defeat ISIS, the best solution is to back the Kurds in their regions of the country and let Assad mop up the rest – which he’s capable of doing, now that the other rebel groups are slowly collapsing. If the goal is actually to overthrow Assad, it’s time to sit back and think about how well that plan worked in Iraq and Libya. Yes, Assad’s a brutal strongman – but he’s no threat to the west, and can anyone see a better alternative for Syria?

Our only priority in Syria should be eliminating ISIS and every other islamist group we can get in our sights. Yes, even the “moderate” ones. Instead of trying to create new armies, we should just increase our support to the Kurds and leave Assad alone to deal with the rest of the country.

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.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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