President Barack Obama’s decision on Oct. 31 to send up to 50 special operators to Syria marks a significant escalation in the campaign against the Islamic State, but it may not be enough.
Mike Rogers of CNN explains how the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command employed special operations forces to great effect in Iraq in the mid 2000s. The reason for this, argues Rogers, is that special operations forces and their commanders had the full support of the Iraqi government; the U.S. controlled the battlespace where they operated; and there was sizeable local support for the mission.
However, in Syria, none of these conditions exist. Special operations forces would be conducting missions in contested space and while there’s significant resentment toward the Islamic State and the Assad regime, that’s not the same as support for the U.S. mission.