As Syrians Stand Up, Defense Officials Say US Troops Will Stand Down

news
Members of the Raqqah Internal Security Force's (RISF) Quick Reaction Force (QRF) conduct marksmenship training on Nov.6 2017 in northern Syria.
U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Richard Lutz

Much like with Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States can check out of Syria any time but it can never fully leave.


The United States will maintain a presence of troops in Syria for the foreseeable future to deter both the Islamic State and Iran, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday.

“Let us be clear: The United States will maintain a military presence in Syria focused on ensuring ISIS cannot reemerge,” Tillerson said during a speech at Stanford University. “Our military mission in Syria will remain conditions based.

“We cannot make the same mistakes that were made in 2011, when a premature departure from Iraq allowed al Qaeda in Iraq to survive and eventually morph into ISIS. It was that vacuum that allowed ISIS and other terrorist organizations to wreak havoc on the country and it gave ISIS a safe have to plan attacks against Americans and our allies. We cannot allow history to repeat itself in Syria.

“ISIS has presently has one foot in the grave. By maintaining an American military presence in Syria until the full and complete defeat of ISIS is achieved, it will soon have two.”

The United States currently has about 2,000 troops in Syria as part of the war against the ISIS, which has been decimated in both Syria and Iraq by the U.S. and its allies on the ground, including Syrian Kurds.

Indeed, Tillerson’s remarks came as Turkey voiced strong objections to a U.S. plan to create a force of about 30,000 Kurds to guard Syria’s border. Turkey considers the Kurdish YPG terrorists and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to “drown” the proposed border force.

When asked about Tillerson’s Syria comments on Wednesday, a Pentagon spokesman reiterated the United States would maintain a “conditions-based” military presence in Syria to prevent ISIS from reconstituting itself and becoming an insurgency.

“Operating under recognized international authorities, the U.S. military will continue to support local partner forces in Syria to stabilize liberated territory,” said Marine Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway said in an email to Task & Purpose.

The U.S. military’s plan is to transfer security in Syria to local forces over time, Rankine-Galloway said. The process of stabilization includes restoring basic services in territory now free of the ISIS’ control, disposing of mines and unexploded ordnance and ensuring the free distribution of humanitarian aid.

“While the nature of U.S. support to partner forces will adjust as the coalition shifts from major urban combat operations to stabilization tasks, U.S. support will not end until the enduring defeat of ISIS and will be determined by conditions on the ground,” Rankine-Galloway said.

Once again, the U.S. military’s strategy has been cut and pasted from an earlier era. The Defense Department’s language is almost word for word what the U.S. policy toward Iraq was during former President George W. Bush.

From 2003 to 2008, the U.S. government consistently said that U.S. troops would not leave Iraq until conditions on the ground allowed doing so. Only when security had improved significantly during the surge and Sunni awakening movements did the two countries strike an agreement for the U.S. withdrawal at the end of 2011.

“As the Iraqi forces gain experience and the political process advances, we will be able to decrease our troop levels in Iraq without losing our capability to defeat the terrorists,” Bush said in a November 2005 speech. “These decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground in Iraq and the good judgment of our commanders – not by artificial timetables set by politicians in Washington.”

WATCH NEXT:

A UH-60 Black Hawk departs from The Rock while conducting Medevac 101 training with members of the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, Feb. 16, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.

At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.

Read More Show Less

The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.

Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."

Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.

Read More Show Less

The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.

Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.

Read More Show Less

I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.

Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.

Read More Show Less

An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps

"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."

news
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.

At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.

Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.

"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."

She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."

It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.

The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.

But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.

The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.

Read More Show Less