So the Pentagon has decided to consider other options in the administration’s war against Bashar al-Assad. Well and good. Here’s a suggestion: Get out of Syria.
Ask yourself a simple question: Are the people of Syria better off today than they were four years ago? It was August of 2011 when President Obama declared, “The time has come for President Assad to step aside.”
Since then, hundreds of thousands have died (estimates range from 140,000 to 330,000), the Islamic State declared a caliphate and occupied thousands of square miles of territory, and the Christian population in Syria and Iraq has nearly been obliterated.
The program to train Syrian rebels, which cost American taxpayers half a billion dollars, produced 54 fighters instead of the hoped-for 5,000. Division 30 was ambushed and neutralized less than half an hour after it crossed into Syria from Turkey, the group’s leaders captured and killed. The remaining fighters have since declared loyalty to the Nusra Front. The head of US Central Command (CENTCOM), Gen. Lloyd Austin, told Congress yesterday that “only four or five” US-trained rebels are still fighting.
$500 million, five rebels. $100 million a man. This fiasco isn’t on the scale of the Bay of Pigs, but it’s a product of the same twisted logic. Division 30 gets a plaque on the Wall of Shame next to Brigade 2506.
And now the daisy chain of groupthink leads here: Officials in government and the military are discussing a scaled-back mission for American-trained fighters. Instead of training and deploying entire fighting units, individuals would be embedded in existing rebel groups.
What? Division 30 was ambushed by the Nusra Front precisely because they were perceived as American agents. And now we want to embed American trainees with groups like the Nusra Front? Am I missing something here?
And, as with Division 30 recruits, they’ll have to pledge to fight only the Islamic State, not the Assad regime. Which means, what–that we’re OK with Assad now?
Even better: The tentative plan is to use these men to call in American airstrikes.
Assuming these recruits survive long enough to actually begin their mission in the field, the shifting alliances between rebel groups in Syria leads me to one conclusion: We’re setting up an even bigger disaster than the humiliation of Division 30.