Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Turkey launches 'Operation Peace Spring' ground invasion to not-so-peacefully wipe out Kurdish fighters in Syria
The Turkish military and its Syrian proxies have begun ground operations into Kurdish-held northeastern Syria following airstrikes, Turkey's defense ministry announced on Wednesday.
So far, the Defense Department has not issued a statement about Turkey's invasion of Syria, which is officially called "Operation Peace Spring."
Prior to the invasion, the U.S. military moved around 50 special operators to bases elsewhere in Syria. U.S. and Turkish forces had been conducting joint patrols to make sure that Kurdish fighters with People's Protection Units, or YPG, withdrew from the Turkish border and dismantled their fortifications. But late on Sunday, the White House announced that U.S. troops would withdraw from the region because Turkey planned to launch a military operation into northeast Syria.
A Turkish miltary convoy is pictured in Kilis near the Turkish-Syrian border, Turkey, October 9, 2019. (Mehmet Ali Dag/ Ihlas News Agency (IHA) via Reuters)
President Donald Trump's acquiescence to the Turkish invasion has caused several Republican lawmakers to express alarm that the United States is showing it will not stand by its friends.
"I think it sends a terrible message to our partners around the world," said Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), who is also a Green Beret.
"I was on the ground working with locals when President Obama announced the [Afghanistan] surge – but then in the same speech told everyone we were leaving. That was devastating in our partnership because people are risking their lives to work with you."
On any given day, U.S. special operators are working with local allies in between 60 to 80 countries, said Waltz, who is serving as a lieutenant colonel in a National Guard Special Forces unit.
Waltz told Task & Purpose that he recognizes the president had to make a very difficult decision after it became clear that Turkey, a NATO ally, intended to attack the U.S. military's Kurdish partners in the fight against ISIS.
While the Trump's decision may help to improve the United States' relationship with Turkey, it also opens a Pandora's Box by allowing the Turks to attack Kurdish forces, who are guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners, and that "essentially sets the conditions for a resurgence of ISIS," he said.
The security situation would get infinitely worse if the United States withdrew all of its troops from Syria, Waltz said.
On Monday, a senior administration official told reporters that the withdrawal of U.S. troops ahead of the Turkish operation did not mark the beginning of the end of the U.S. military's presence in the country.
"The American people want American troops as soon as possible and that remains our ultimate goal: to get American troops from the Middle East and to let the parties in the region determine their own future," the official said. "But this is not the time for any such move right now. We're moving 50 troops within Syria."
Amid the outcry over Turkey's attacks on Kurdish forces that fought alongside U.S. troops, it is important to remember that Russia and China are existential threats to the United States while ISIS is not, said retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commander of United States Army Europe.
As a brigade commander with the 101st Airborne Division in 2003, Hodges worked with Kurdish forces in northern Iraq, so has a sentimental attachment to them, he said. But strategically, the United States may have erred by not fully appreciating how Turkey would react to providing the Kurds with weapons to fight ISIS.
Turkey is an "essential ally" against Russia because it controls the waterways that link the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea under the 1936 Montreux Convention, Hodges told Task & Purpose.
"In times of crisis, they could stop the Russian navy from sailing out of the Black Sea," Hodges said. "Since 1936, they've done a very good disciplined job of making everybody live up to the letter of Montreux."
"A U.S. Navy frigate can come up in there for 21 days," Hodges said of the Montreux Convention. "That's it. But it also says that Russia, for example, could not have a submarine from the Black Sea go out into to the Mediterranean or the Atlantic and do missions. It could only leave purely for the purpose of maintenance and then it would have to come back, and Turkey is who has their hand on the control switch."
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.
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.
The Navy could deploy a second carrier to the Middle East if Trump orders an Iran surge, top admiral says
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.
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.
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."
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.