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The Endgame in Syria
Administration Abandons Failed Syria Program

The Obama Administration may quietly be dropping its commitment to the failed, U.S.-run fighter scheme in Syria, which was the cause of much derision recently when 23 of the only 60 men the program trained were captured. The Daily Beast reports:

The Obama administration is still publicly counting on a $500 million rebel army to beat ISIS in Syria. But privately, the Pentagon brass long ago moved past its own proxy force, The Daily Beast has learned. They’ve found another group to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State instead.

In the eyes of the administration, a better force had emerged—already trained, competent, organized—that posed little risk of abandoning the fight or worse yet, switching sides. They are the Syrian Kurdish militia—the Popular Protection Units or YPG, by their Kurdish initials. And they have successfully wrestled Syrian territory out of ISIS’s hands.

Seeing officials finally move to distance themselves from the training program, even if only in an off-the-record manner, is heartening. The first step to solving a problem, as the saying goes, is to admit you have one, and America’s policy with regard to Syrian forces has had a serious problem lately. As a “senior defense advisor” told The Daily Beast, “I don’t understand why we are still training, other than to inoculate criticism. … [The administration] cannot admit it is a complete disaster.”

But a pivot to the YPG would be far more complicated than it is presented here as being, largely because of our new alliance with the Turks. They have no intention (to put it mildly) of allowing the anti-ISIS fight to create a new Kurdish power in the region. In fact, as Dov Friedman has argued in our pages, Ankara seems to see the campaign against ISIS as an opportunity to crush Kurdish regional aspirations. So the Administration’s trial balloon in this case proposes something completely at odds with its recent move to cooperate with Turkey in Syria.

Among the groups that can field real fighters in Syria, Kurdish forces are in many ways the most aligned with America’s interests. It’s good that they’re on the Administration’s radar—and that we’ve (potentially) moved past the farce of the “New Syrian Force.” But this still isn’t a coherent strategy.

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  • Kevin

    The policy of supporting the YPG is a drowning man grasping whatever is at hand if they do not have a plan for how to deal with Turkey’s inevitable reaction. It’s absurd. There is a good policy that involves supporting the Kurds, but it will involve coordinating a lot of moving parts throughout the region. This is just random flailing without any forethought. I assume it will be abandoned for the next policy du jour in a few weeks when it too collapses into a farce.

    • Ellen

      Never were truer words spoken. What a collection of navel-gazing, blind, deaf and dumb narcissists are the pair Obama and Kerry. I only pray that the Congress will summon the courage to repudiate the Iran Deal. I’d love to see these two go down in infamy.

    • DeepThought

      Stabbing the Turk’s in the back is not going to work out well for the Kurds. As America’s allies have found out, US support always has an expiration date but their enemies animosity will not. The Turk’s have a right to territorial integrity as much as the US.

      • Kevin

        That’s why John Kerry gets paid the big bucks. Rather than making space on his mantle place for his forthcoming Nobel Peace Prize for the Iran deal, he should be out there with a coherent, plausible plan, bringing the Turks, Kurds of various flavors, the Gulf Sunni princedoms, and other interested parties together to support it which includes the hard work of getting them all to agree on a course of action. Baker and Powell are examples of how this is done; it involves more than flying off to Vienna and nodding your head “yes” to whatever the Ayatollahs suggest.

  • MarkE

    The Kurds and the Isrealis seem to be our best allies in the region. Bombing the Kurds in Syria seems to run counter to our goal of opposing ISIS. Shouldn’t Obama’s Dept of State put some pressure on Turkey to ease-up on the Kurds in Syria?

    • Fat_Man

      And that is why they won’t do it. Because, they never take the easy way out. The seem to believe that diplomacy is about slobbering over your enemies and shafting your friends.

    • rheddles

      The Kurds should look at how well we have treated our other “best” ally and look elsewhere.

    • DeepThought

      The Kurds our are best allies? So was Saddam at one time lol. To betray the Turks is not smart diplomacy.

  • rheddles

    Obama’s coherent strategy? There’s an oxymoron.

  • HughdePayens

    hehe…Yea that’s it, failure wasn’t the goal.

    Seeing officials finally move to distance themselves from the training
    program, even if only in an off-the-record manner, is heartening. The
    first step to solving a problem, as the saying goes, is to admit you
    have one, and America’s policy with regard to Syrian forces has had a
    serious problem lately.

    Failure is a feature not a bug. Obama’s definition of success differs from rational Americans. He hates America. He want’s to destroy everything about America. Imagining that any follow on policy is going to do some good, as defined by normal Americans, is beyond wishful thinking.

  • DeepThought

    Why are we backstabbing the Turks? The Turkish government warned Bush of invading Iraq and they ignored them. Now we stab them in the back?

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