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SDF avoids fight with Trump over budget cut - al-Monitor
Congress cut $100 million from that figure in an appropriations reduction in December after Trump signed the Defense Department’s annual authorization that requested a higher figure. It wasn’t immediately clear why the Pentagon had decided to trim the military aid, though the agency slashed funding for the SDF by $200 million from the previous year in its budget for fiscal year 2020.
SDF  budget  Mar15  congress  DoD 
6 weeks ago by elizrael
Some US forces to remain in northeastern Syria, SDF sources say
The sources did not elaborate on the precise size of the US force or how long its expected to remain. An SDF official speaking on condition of strict anonymity in order to discuss the matter freely said the presence of US forces in Tishreen, however brief, would help stave off putative moves by Syrian regime forces against the SDF coming from positions further south in Tabqa.
DoD  Military  Mar15  SDF  unnamed_official 
october 2019 by elizrael
US announces full withdrawal from northern Syria as Turkish forces advance
The Kurds do have one last card to play, however: to offer to help regime forces fight jihadis entrenched in Idlib, the sole remaining Arab rebel stronghold on the Turkish border where Turkish observer forces are stationed.

Ilham Ahmed, the co-chair of the SDF-linked Syrian Democratic Council and the Syrian Kurdish administration’s top diplomat, is in Cairo conducting separate talks, the official said, but declined to elaborate. 
Well-informed sources with close knowledge of the administration’s policymaking told Al-Monitor the writing has been on the wall for some time. Many said the Kurds had been misled by Trump's Syria team led by ambassador James Jeffrey. They noted that Trump had made his intention to leave Syria crystal clear from the outset and that even though he suspended his decision to withdraw all US forces in December 2018, he never changed it.
TrumpAdministration  Trump  SDF  PeaceSpring  Mar15  decision_making  unnamed_official  DoD 
october 2019 by elizrael
Hezbollah Leaders Targeted, Reportedly Hit in Israeli Airstrike, U.S. Official Says
The information was given to Newsweek from a Department of Defense source with access to the information from Israeli senior military officers with direct knowledge of the attack. Israel's air strike was conducted minutes after the leaders boarded a plane bound for Iran.

Several Iranian ammunition supply points were also a target of the bombing, the source said. The supply points contained valuable, GPS-guided ammunition from 2017, some of the best available to the Iranian army and Hezbollah.
Israel  Hizbollah  Iran  Mar15  attack  DoD  unnamed_official 
december 2018 by elizrael
Watchdog: Islamic State fighter numbers increase in Syria - Al-Monitor, Aug 8, 2018
As US-backed forces begin targeting IS remnants near the Iraqi border, as many as 4,000 to 6,000 IS fighters remain in their former stronghold in northeastern Syria, a joint inspector general report to Congress on Monday revealed.
ISIS  intelligence_assessment  Mar15  DoD 
august 2018 by elizrael
In Syria, an accidental bulwark against Iran shows confusion of Trump policy
The focus on Iran at Tanf began as something of an accident.

In 2016, the U.S. military was making progress against Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria, when President Obama approved a small training program for Syrian forces just across the border in Jordan. The Pentagon proposed inserting the U.S.-backed fighters at Tanf, which had been recaptured from militants that year.

One selling point of the desert outpost was its isolation. Surrounded by miles of sand, it was relatively easy to defend.

“It’s like Mars out there,” a senior U.S. official said. “Just desert and a road.”

Initially, the plan was to move the forces at Tanf and their American advisers north along the border with Iraq, where they would link up with other U.S.-backed units fighting the Islamic State and help recapture a strategic border crossing at Bukamal.

In a sign of nervousness on both sides, U.S. officials received a secret letter, delivered through the Swiss government, from Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, multiple current and former officials said. Soleimani was a frequent presence with militia units on the front lines, a hardened fighter U.S. officials saw as the embodiment of Iranian ambitions.

The State Department eventually responded, telling the Iranians that the U.S. military would destroy any Iranian-backed forces that got within 30 miles of the base.

Inside the White House, officials who wanted to do more to counter Iranian influence began pushing to expand the security bubble around the Tanf base. The most ambitious plans called for creating a safe zone where the U.S. military could train a force to challenge Iran and the Assad regime in southern Syria.

“It certainly looked like it was a pivotal moment on who was going to come out victorious on the policy — the ones that really wanted to take the fight to the Iranians in Syria and those that didn’t,” the State Department official said.

But the bolder military plans ran into resistance from the Pentagon and, more significantly, Trump’s conflicting desires.
“Whenever they bring up Syria, he says ‘I want Syria to be Putin’s problem.’ Whenever they bring up Iraq, he says ‘What’s the least I can do,’” a former U.S. official said. “The actions don’t mesh with what could be a larger strategy against Iran.”
TrumpAdministration  Mar15  Iran  Homs  internal_struggle  DoD  State_Department  Bolton 
may 2018 by elizrael
Trump scales back US goals in Syria, leaves future to others
Trump has given no formal order to pull out the 2,000 U.S. troops currently in Syria, nor offered a public timetable, other than to say the United States will pull out just as soon as the last remaining IS fighters can be vanquished. But Trump has signaled to his advisers that ideally, he wants all troops out within six months, according to three U.S. officials — a finale that would come shortly before the U.S. midterm elections.

In his haste to withdraw from Syria, Trump stands alone. The Pentagon, the State Department and CIA are all deeply concerned about the potential ramifications if the U.S. leaves behind a power vacuum in Syria, as are Israel, Arab leaders and other nations in the U.S.-led coalition that has fought IS in Iraq and Syria since 2014.

Urging him to slow down, Trump’s aides have been emphasizing that IS fighters remain active in Syria, evidence that Trump’s own, publicly stated objective — the total defeat of IS — has yet to be met. Officials said the U.S. is tracking two pockets where IS remains viable — one in the Middle Euphrates Valley Region, another along the Iraq-Syria border. And despite the White House’s insistence that the group is “almost completely defeated,” a string of renewed IS attacks in recent weeks has raised fears about a resurgence.
Trump  TrumpAdministration  DoD  State_Department  decision_making  ForeignFighters  withdrawal  Mar15 
april 2018 by elizrael
Coalition and SDF are training a 30,000-strong Syrian border force - Defense Post
The U.S.-led Coalition against Islamic State is currently training a force to maintain security along the Syrian border as the operation against ISIS shifts focus. The 30,000-strong force will be partly composed of veteran fighters and operate under the leadership of the Syrian Democratic Forces, CJTF-OIR told The Defense Post.

“The Coalition is working jointly with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to establish and train the new Syrian Border Security Force (BSF). Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” CJTF-OIR Public Affairs Officer Colonel Thomas F. Veale said.

“The base of the new force is essentially a realignment of approximately 15,000 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces to a new mission in the Border Security Force as their actions against ISIS draw to a close.”
Mar15  DoD  CIA  SDF  USTraining  PYD 
january 2018 by elizrael
Revealed: The Pentagon Is Spending Up To $2.2 Billion on Soviet-Style Arms for Syrian Rebels - OCCRP, Sep 12, 2017
Arms factories across the Balkans and Eastern Europe – already working at capacity to supply the Syrian war – are unable to meet the demand. In response, the US Department of Defense (DoD) has turned to new suppliers like Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Ukraine for additional munitions while relaxing standards on the material it’s willing to accept, according to an investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

This US-financed supply line is similar to a Saudi-backed €1.2 billion arms pipeline to Syria uncovered last year by BIRN and OCCRP.
DoD  weapons  PYD  SDF  Mar15  CIA  Saudi-Arabia  obama_administration  USG  foreign_aid 
december 2017 by elizrael
US-backed forces in southeastern Syria downsize, take on smaller role - SD, Nov 21,2017
Between 40 and 60 fighters remain with the Maghawir a-Thawra (MaT) faction after at least 180 others were relieved from duty over the weekend, a source with the group who requested anonymity told Syria Direct on Monday.

A US Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesperson confirmed in an email to Syria Direct on Monday that 180 fighters were let go after they had “completed their military service.”

MaT removed the fighters from service as a result of their “weak performance” while on duty, MaT spokesman Muhammad Jarrah told Syria Direct on Monday night. He added that the release was an internal decision made by the faction’s leadership.
FSA  USTraining  DoD  Mar15  Homs 
december 2017 by elizrael
German Concerns Spark Pentagon Reroute of Syria-Bound Arms :: Balkan Insight, Sep 12, 201
The message was delivered by SOCOM to 11 US firms it had tasked with buying weapons from across Central and Eastern Europe for Syrian rebels fighting Islamic State, ISIS.

According to the leaked Pentagon email from December 23, 2016, recently obtained by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, OCCRP, German authorities had “become very sensitive” to requests from Pentagon contractors for transit licences to transport weapons across their territory to US military bases.
Germany  weapons  DoD  SDF  Mar15  USG 
september 2017 by elizrael
Desert Base Is Displaced Syrians' Last Line of Defense - TCF, Sep 8, 2017
In the Badiyah desert, the Syrian regime’s eastward advance has jammed together America’s covert war in Syria, its overt campaign against the Islamic State, and two camps holding tens of thousands of vulnerable displaced people, all into one shrinking space.
A “deconfliction” arrangement to protect U.S.-led Coalition forces in a desert base is all that currently shields the camps from advancing regime and allied forces. But the Coalition isn’t there to protect civilians, it’s there to fight the Islamic State—and around the base, there’s no more Islamic State.
The U.S.-led Coalition won’t stay in this base forever, even if it’s unlikely to leave just yet. If America wants to leave, though, it needs to ensure the safety of these camps’ residents first.
IDPs  Homs  Jordan  Mar15  MOC  DoD  USTraining  ForeignFighters  aid 
september 2017 by elizrael
The rise and fall of a US-backed rebel commander in Syria - FT, Feb 8 2017
The operation was based in a nondescript villa in southern Turkey, where rebel commanders met intelligence officers around a long, oval table to propose battle plans and lobby for weapons. 

Rebels approved as ideological “moderates” received a monthly salary of about $150 for a fighter and $300 for a commander.

At first the atmosphere was convivial. The Turks let the commanders sleep at the building, which had a kitchen and a cook, so they could finish late-night sessions poring over maps and plans. Soon, however, MOM bureaucracy became a problem for the rebels: battles could turn in hours while it sometimes took weeks for foreign representatives to agree on plans and get approval to deliver supplies such as ammunition, medicine and boots. Rebels turned to the media with tales of MOM’s stinginess. 

Some opposition figures and diplomats, however, argue the problem was just the opposite. “MOM became a vehicle for corrupting the Free Syrian Army, not because they gave them too little but because they gave them too much,” says an opposition figure close to MOM-backed commanders. 

He says commanders regularly inflated their forces’ numbers to pocket extra salaries, and some jacked up weapons requests to hoard or sell on the black market. Inevitably, much of that ended up in Isis hands. Other groups cut in Jabhat al-Nusra on deals to keep it from attacking them. “The CIA knew about this, of course, everyone in MOM did. It was the price of doing business.”

But perhaps more damaging than the corruption were the growing rivalries between MOM’s foreign backers. As divides opened, each power moved to bolster its favoured commanders. 

“A toddler could enter the MOM room and be able to tell which guy the US was pushing for, who the Turks wanted, or who the Saudis were pushing,” says Abu Omar, a friend of Abu Ahmad and a fellow US-backed rebel commander (not his real name). “MOM became the legal face to cover all the extra support they were giving these groups behind each other’s backs.”

“America was pressuring us with its control of MOM aid. Turkey was trying to pressure us with its control over border access,” says another rebel leader from Aleppo, who asked not to be named. “They’re not allies, they’re liars. When you have allies like Syrians have, you don’t need enemies.”
Mar15  MOC  Turkey  CIA  obama_administration  DoD  weapons  corruption  smuggling 
september 2017 by elizrael
White House Officials Push for Widening War in Syria Over Pentagon Objections | Foreign Policy, June 16, 2017
A pair of top White House officials is pushing to broaden the war in Syria, viewing it as an opportunity to confront Iran and its proxy forces on the ground there, according to two sources familiar with the debate inside the Donald Trump administration.

Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, and Derek Harvey, the NSC’s top Middle East advisor, want the United States to start going on the offensive in southern Syria, where, in recent weeks, the U.S. military has taken a handful of defensive actions against Iranian-backed forces fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Their plans are making even traditional Iran hawks nervous, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, who has personally shot down their proposals more than once, the two sources said.
NSC  internal_struggle  Mar15  TrumpAdministration  Iran  DoD 
september 2017 by elizrael
Trump Said No to Troops in Syria. His Aides Aren't So Sure. - Bloomberg, April 13, 2017
Senior White House and administration officials tell me Trump's national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, has been quietly pressing his colleagues to question the underlying assumptions of a draft war plan against the Islamic State that would maintain only a light U.S. ground troop presence in Syria. McMaster's critics inside the administration say he wants to send tens of thousands of ground troops to the Euphrates River Valley. His supporters insist he is only trying to facilitate a better interagency process to develop Trump's new strategy to defeat the self-described caliphate that controls territory in Iraq and Syria.

Inside the Pentagon, military leaders favor a more robust version of Obama's strategy against the Islamic State. This has been a combination of airstrikes and special operations forces that train and support local forces. Military leaders favor lifting restrictive rules of engagement for U.S. special operations forces and using more close air support, like attack helicopters, in future operations against the Islamic State capital in Raqqa.

McMaster however is skeptical of this approach. To start, it relies primarily on Syrian Kurdish militias to conquer and hold Arab-majority territory.
McMaster  ForeignFighters  Mar15  TrumpAdministration  internal_struggle  decision_making  DoD  obama_administration 
august 2017 by elizrael
SMART News Agency - وكالة سمارت للأنباء - "ألوية العمري": أمريكا تضع شروطا لاستئناف الدعم لـ"الجبهة الجنوبية" July 29, 2017
وأوضح رئيس المكتب السياسي لـ"ألوية العمري" وائل معزر بتصريح خاص إلى "سمارت"، أن الولايات المتحدة طالبت بإيقاف القتال ضد النظام السوري والموافقة على قتال تنظيم "الدولة الإسلامية" وإرسال قوات إلى الرقة، شمالي شرقي سوريا، وتسليم الصواريخ والراجمات، لاستئناف الدعم لـ"الجبهة الجنوبية".

وأضاف "معزر"، ان الدعم مازال مستمر لبعض الفصائل، حيث مازال هناك دورات تدريبية في الأردن، كما وصلت شحنات من الأسلحة والذخائر بعد إعلان وقف الدعم.

وأشار "معزر" أن هناك خطوات تتبعها الفصائل لتلافي انقطاع الدعم، حيث بدأ التنسيق لأربعين فصيل على مستوى سوريا لتشكيل "الجبهة الوطنية لتحرير سوريا"، ويضم أكثر من مئة ضابط منشق عن قوات النظام، لافتا إلى أن هناك خلافات بين غرفة "الموك" والأردن حول تثبيت الفصائل التي تعمل وفق الأجندة الخاصة بكل طرف.
MOC  DoD  Mar15  Daraa  FSA  Jordan 
august 2017 by elizrael
Aldorar Alshamia News Network : US military threatened to bomb our headquarters but why?, an Official of Shohadaa al-Qraiteen Brigade says
According to Abu Omar al-Homsi, head of the media office of Shohadaa al-Qraiteen Brigade, the US-led coalition threatened to bomb their positions in the Syrian desert if they refused to hand over heavy weapons taken from the coalition earlier.

Shohadaa al-Qraiteen Brigade announced a few days ago it stopped receiving support from the international coalition because of the latter's refusal to provide ammunition and weapons in the battles against the Syrian regime, and only to provide it in battles against IS organization.
Mar15  FSA  DoD  Sweidaa  Homs 
august 2017 by elizrael
Syrian rebels say U.S., allies sending more arms to fend off Iran threat | Reuters, May 30, 2017
Rebels said military aid has been boosted through two separate channels: a program backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), known as the MOC, and regional states including Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and one run by the Pentagon.

"There has been an increase in the support," said Tlass Salameh, head of the Jaish Usoud al-Sharqiya, one of the FSA groups backed via the CIA-backed program. "There's no way we can let them open the Baghdad-Damascus highway," he said.

A senior commander of a Pentagon-backed group, Maghawir al-Thawra, told Reuters a steady flow of weapons had arrived at their base near the Iraqi border since the pro-Damascus forces began deploying this month.

He said efforts to recruit and train local fighters from Deir al-Zor had accelerated at their garrison at Tanf, on the highway some 20 km (12 miles) from the Iraqi border.

"The equipment and reinforcements come and go daily ... but in the last few weeks they have brought in more heavy military vehicles, TOW (missiles), and armored vehicles," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Homs  Mar15  FSA  foreign_aid  MOC  USTraining  DoD  weapons 
july 2017 by elizrael
US would welcome effective Syrian effort to defeat IS - AP, June 23, 2017
"If it looks like they are making a concerted effort to move into ISIS-held areas, and if they show that they can do that, that is not a bad sign," Dillon said, referring to forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad. "We are here to fight ISIS as a coalition, but if others want to fight ISIS and defeat them, then we absolutely have no problem with that."
ISIS  DoD  Mar15  Assad  DeirEzZor 
june 2017 by elizrael
Obama administration considering strikes on Assad, again - The Washington Post, Oct 4, 2016
Last Wednesday, at a Deputies Committee meeting at the White House, officials from the State Department, the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed limited military strikes against the regime as a means of forcing Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to pay a cost for his violations of the cease-fire, disrupt his ability to continue committing war crimes against civilians in Aleppo, and raise the pressure on the regime to come back to the negotiating table in a serious way.

The options under consideration, which remain classified, include bombing Syrian air force runways using cruise missiles and other long-range weapons fired from coalition planes and ships, an administration official who is part of the discussions told me. One proposed way to get around the White House’s long-standing objection to striking the Assad regime without a U.N. Security Council resolution would be to carry out the strikes covertly and without public acknowledgment, the official said.

The CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represented in the Deputies Committee meeting by Vice Chairman Gen. Paul Selva, expressed support for such “kinetic” options, the official said. That marked an increase of support for striking Assad compared with the last time such options were considered.

“There’s an increased mood in support of kinetic actions against the regime,” one senior administration official said. “The CIA and the Joint Staff have said that the fall of Aleppo would undermine America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria.”
obama_administration  internal_struggle  foreign_policy  Mar15  CIA  DoD  NSC 
october 2016 by elizrael
Suppose America Gave a Proxy War in Syria and Nobody Came? - TCF, July 7, 2016
Hammad denied both that Jordan had urged the offensive and that a Jordanian officer had helped command the NSA’s forces. He also told me any pressure had been American, not Jordanian. “The preparation was rushed, thanks to the American side,” Hammad said. “There should have been more [fighters] and more preparation, but things were hurried.”

And yet the NSA has failed to recruit more of the Deir al-Zour rebels whom Islamic State drove out of the province in summer 2014 and scattered across Syria and Turkey.

In part, this is because—shiny new branding to the contrary—the NSA is made of the same rebels who have been fighting for almost five years, and it has inherited their personal and factional baggage.

Many Deir al-Zour commanders refuse to serve under Talla’ and Sarhan, whom they accuse of being weak or crooked. Sarhan confirmed to me that he had standing disputes with some commanders. Talla’ is blamed by some for the failure of the Military Council to provide Deir al-Zour rebels with meaningful support. Some also associate him with the decision of rebels in his hometown of Muhassan not to resist Islamic State when it took Deir al-Zour.

The Russian strike on the NSA’s base only raised further questions about the United States’ commitment. Talla’ and the NSA media official both told me the United States had earlier promised to protect the NSA from any attack, a promise that may have been impossible to keep.

Some of these objections to the NSA—and thus obstacles to recruitment—stem from sloppy messaging and image management. The Authenticity and Development Front’s leadership would have avoided some amateur mistakes, group official Hammad said, but it had been sidelined by the United States and its coalition partners on nearly all decision-making related to the NSA. Instead, U.S. and other coalition officials dealt only with commanders Talla’ and Sarhan. A coalition media office had produced some of the NSA’s embarrassing media output.

“Some of the statements that came out, the flyers that were dropped—they made it out to be an American project,” Hammad told me. “It never took on a Syrian, Arab, patriotic character.”
FSA  DeirEzZor  Mar15  ISIS  CAS  DoD  obama_administration 
october 2016 by elizrael
Details of Syria Pact Widen Rift Between John Kerry and Pentagon - NYT, Sep 13,2016
On Tuesday at the Pentagon, officials would not even agree that if a cessation of violence in Syria held for seven days — the initial part of the deal — the Defense Department would put in place its part of the agreement on the eighth day: an extraordinary collaboration between the United States and Russia that calls for the American military to share information with Moscow on Islamic State targets in Syria.

“I’m not saying yes or no,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, commander of the United States Air Forces Central Command, told reporters on a video conference call. “It would be premature to say that we’re going to jump right into it.”

White House officials were also dubious. “I think we’d have some reasons to be skeptical that the Russians are able or are willing to implement the arrangement consistent with the way it’s been described,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Monday at a briefing. He added, darkly, “But we’ll see.”
DoD  Mar15  State_Department  obama_administration  Russia  internal_struggle 
october 2016 by elizrael
bellingcat - The New Syrian Army: America's "Tip of the Spear" Against ISIS in the Syrian Desert - bellingcat, May 31, 2016
The relationship between the New Syrian Army and the US is even closer than the relationship between the US and the YPG. While relatively small compared to most Syrian rebel groups, the New Syrian Army is one of the best equipped and trained FSA groups. Jordanian special forces are also likely embedded with NSyA. Furthermore, NSyA has coordinated with the Iraqi government to secure portions of Iraqi territory along the Syria-Iraq border. In this article we will be investigating American and Jordanian support for the New Syrian Army. Understanding the extent of American support for this group can help us understand their relevance in the war against ISIS.
FSA  DoD  foreign_aid  obama_administration  ForeignFighters  Iraq  Jordan  weapons 
october 2016 by elizrael
Details of Syria Pact Widen Rift Between John Kerry and Pentagon - The New York Times, Sep 13, 2016
Mr. Carter was among the administration officials who pushed against the agreement on a conference call with the White House last week as Mr. Kerry, joining the argument from a secure facility in Geneva, grew increasingly frustrated. Although President Obama ultimately approved the effort after hours of debate, Pentagon officials remain unconvinced.

White House officials were also dubious. “I think we’d have some reasons to be skeptical that the Russians are able or are willing to implement the arrangement consistent with the way it’s been described,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said Monday at a briefing. He added, darkly, “But we’ll see.”

But the Syria deal, as Mr. Kerry himself conceded at the State Department on Monday, is far more complex, in part because there are so many other players, beyond Washington and Moscow, with stakes in the outcome. In private, he has conceded to aides and friends that he believes it will not work. But he has said he is determined to try, so that he and Mr. Obama do not leave office having failed to alleviate a civil war that has taken roughly half a million lives.

But to Mr. Kerry’s inner team of advisers, the Pentagon approach was reflexive Cold War-era thinking. For all the other tensions with Russia, they believed that the Russians themselves did not want to get mired in Syria and would cooperate up to a point.
obama_administration  Mar15  State_Department  DoD  ceasefire  Russia  internal_struggle  Obama 
september 2016 by elizrael
U.S., Russia drafting plans for joint command center for Syrian air war - Washington Times
“We are still very early in the process when it comes to the agreement with the Russians. And I think the important key to remember right now is we will continue to do prudent planning with respect to any implementation,” he told reporters at the Pentagon during a briefing from Baghdad.
There have been fears in the Pentagon that the center could give Russian officials a close look at American operations and tactics, and that Moscow could use the bombing campaign to give a battlefield advantage to Syrian President Bashar Assad, a longtime Russian ally who President Obama insists must go.
DoD  Mar15  Russia  ceasefire 
september 2016 by elizrael
U.S., Russia Talk Syria, But Pentagon Ready to Walk | Foreign Policy, Sep 2, 2016
“I don’t trust the Russians one iota,” a senior defense official with knowledge of the negotiations told Foreign Policy. “No one thinks that any of this is actually going to come to pass.”

First would be grounding the Syrian air force and ending the barrel bombing of cities like Aleppo and Homs in order to allow humanitarian aid to reach millions of trapped civilians. Moscow, which is backing the regime of Bashar al Assad, would also have to stop bombing Syrian opposition forces who are battling Assad. The U.S. – and Russia — would remain free to bomb the Islamic State during the ceasefire, however.

Only after the Syrians and Russians stand down and aid starts flowing would the U.S. consider working with the Russians to target the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s one-time affiliate in the country.

“The Russians are using these talks in Geneva just as a cover to continue taking Daraya and bombing the crap out of the opposition in southwest Aleppo,” the defense official said, “so they can say ‘we’re talking to the Americans,’ meanwhile they’re hitting the ground hard.” The official added that “we’re not falling for this naively, so if they violate its terms, then we just walk away.”

Even if coordinated air raids against Nusra could be carried out successfully, any deal between Russia and the United States likely would jeopardize Washington’s long-term goal of reaching a political settlement to end the war, as it could destroy any leverage the U.S. still had with the more moderate rebels, experts and former diplomats said.

“Trust is already at an all-time low,” Lister said, “but there is still a desire within the mainstream opposition to work with the West in general, including the United States. But external intervention like this would be catastrophic in damaging that level of trust.”
ceasefire  Mar15  Russia  obama  DoD  JabhatAl-Nusra 
september 2016 by elizrael
Civilian Lives and the Fate of Campaigns - War on the Rocks, June 16, 2016
In the nine years that I have been involved in Afghanistan, I am struck by the strategic penalties the United States paid for civilian harm inflicted by international and Afghan forces and militias. It was a key factor in the growth and sustainability of the Taliban, it sorely damaged U.S.-Afghan relations, undermined legitimacy of both parties, and alienated the Afghan people.

Studies show that insurgencies succeed when an they attain sustainable internal and external support, or when the host nation government loses legitimacy. Civilian harm tends to accelerate both problems — it is like burning a candle at both ends with a blowtorch.

If efforts to protect civilians resulted in more American troops being killed, we should have seen a sustained increase in fatalities during firefights, which is when U.S. forces would have been most likely to call for airstrikes and artillery in self-defense. But the available evidence suggests that this was not the case. The normalized rate of troop fatalities during ground engagements actually decreased 7 percent when comparing 2006 (before the first tactical directive in 2007) to 2012 (the last full year of ISAF-led combat operations). The most likely explanation for the significant spike n 2009 and 2001 is that newly arrived U.S. forces were fighting their way into Taliban strongholds of Wardak, Helmand, and Kandahar.
COIN  Afghanistan  USG  DoD 
june 2016 by elizrael
Number of foreign fighters entering Iraq and Syria drops by 90 percent, Pentagon says - The Washington Post, April 26, 2016
The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria has dropped from roughly 2,000 a month down to 200 within the past year, according to the Pentagon, which says the waning numbers are further proof of the Islamic State’s declining stature.
Foreign fighters within the Islamic State have traditionally received better treatment than their local and conscripted counterparts. As recently as January, U.S. intelligence reports estimated that there were more than 30,000 foreign fighters from roughly 100 different countries within the Islamic State’s ranks. That includes more than 6,000 Westerners. This number was echoed in a December report by the Soufan Group, a think tank, indicating that foreign fighters in Syria had doubled between 2014 and 2015. Western officials are concerned that foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq will return to their home countries radicalized and willing to carry out terror attacks within their own borders.
ForeignFighters  Mar15  intelligence_assessment  ISIS  DoD 
may 2016 by elizrael
The ugly truth: Defeating the Islamic State will take decades - The Washington Post, Jan 18, 2016
Some examples illustrate the agility of Islamic State commanders: They have used tunnels and other concealment tactics to hide their movements; they have developed super-size car bombs, packing explosives in bulldozers and other heavy equipment and sending them in waves against targets; they have deployed small drones for reconnaissance and may be preparing armed drones; they have used chemical weapons, such as chlorine and mustard gas, on the battlefield and may expand use of such unconventional weapons.
ISIS  DoD  obama_administration  Mar15 
may 2016 by elizrael
US Central Command nominee has 'concerns' about progress against Isis in Syria | World news | The Guardian
Unlike an earlier, failed plan scrapped last year, Votel said the revived, smaller initiative would focus on recruiting “from organizations that are focused on [Isis] naturally. We’re trying to avoid the problem we had last time where we didn’t know what their allegiances are.”

Votel acknowledged that he would have a smaller pool of recruits, since most Syrian militant groups the US might cultivate focus on fighting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, not Isis.

Votel first objected to and then expressed tentative support for US warplanes policing a so-called humanitarian corridor of Syria to protect desperate Syrians against Assad’s aerial forces. Austin and several other senior military officers have balked at a no-fly zone given the possibility of direct fight against Russian aircraft in Syria and drift away from the war against Isis.

“I don’t have a problem with a no-fly zone,” Votel said ultimately under sharp questioning from a powerful advocate of the policy, Senate armed services committee chairman John McCain.
NFZ  DoD  Mar15  USTraining  ISIS 
march 2016 by elizrael
Pentagon, CIA Chiefs Don’t Think Russia Will Abide by Syria Cease-Fire - WSJ, Feb 23, 2016
President Barack Obama’s top military and intelligence advisers, convinced Russia won’t abide by a cease-fire in Syria, are pushing for ways to increase pressure on Moscow, including expanding covert military assistance for some rebels now taking a pounding from Russian airstrikes.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter; Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan have voiced increasingly tough views in White House meetings, calling for new measures to “inflict real pain on the Russians,” a senior administration official said.

Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria, launched last fall, has infuriated the CIA in particular because the strikes have aggressively targeted relatively moderate rebels it has backed with military supplies, including antitank missiles, U.S. officials say.

Officials say it was unclear whether stepped-up support would make much difference at this stage, given how much ground the CIA-backed rebels have lost in the recent pro-regime offensive.

Aside from expanding the CIA program, other options under discussion include providing intelligence support to moderate rebels to help them better defend themselves against Russian air attacks and to possibly conduct more effective offensive operations, officials said.

Another option with wide support among Mr. Obama’s advisers would impose new economic sanctions against Russia. But senior administration officials said they doubt European powers would go along, given the importance they place on trade with Russia.

At one point last week, the Pentagon came close to withdrawing its representatives from the cease-fire talks after the Russians claimed military cooperation between the U.S. and Russia was part of the closed-door discussions, according to senior administration officials.

Mr. Carter was upset about the Russian claims because he had explicitly ruled out such discussions, the officials said.

The Pentagon believes Russia was trying to try to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its coalition partners and to make it look like Washington would support Moscow’s military campaign in Syria and accept Mr. Assad.

Mr. Kerry has supported the CIA program in Syria in the past and has advocated for greater military involvement, such as the creation of a safe zone to protect the moderate opposition. But the Pentagon has been resistant to such ideas, warning they could lead to a conflict with Russia, administration officials have said.

Ms. Rice, Mr. McDonough and other senior national security officials at the White House have voiced skepticism in the past about the CIA effort.

Current and former officials said Mr. Obama was persuaded in 2013 to green-light the covert program in Syria in part because doing so gave the CIA influence over the actions of regional partners, including Saudi and Turkish intelligence, preventing them, for example, from introducing advanced antiaircraft weapons known as Manpads on the battlefield. Washington warned the weapons could fall into terrorist hands and be turned against commercial aircraft.
MANPADs  Mar15  CIA  DoD  internal_struggle  JohnKerry  obama_administration  ceasefire  Russia  FSA  foreign_aid 
february 2016 by elizrael
Armed with intel, U.S. strikes curtail IS oil sector - Iraq Oil Report, Dec 28, 2015
They show that, until recently, nearly 2,000 IS oil workers, many recruited from abroad, were able to outfox early U.S. attempts to derail the group's oil operations. From the end of 2014 through May 2015, even after being hit by a series of air strikes, the highly bureaucratic and organized operation generated as much as $40 million per month from the sale of crude oil. (The IS organization generated millions more by taxing transportation and refining, though the U.S. officials declined to give more detailed figures.)

"From the documents, we see this: oil has traditionally been approaching 50 percent of their profits. And the other 50 percent was the total of all the other things," said Amos Hochstein, the State Department's Special Envoy for International Energy Affairs, who is at the center of the U.S. government's efforts to identify weaknesses in the IS group's oil sector.

"We are already seeing a degraded capability from the beginning of Tidal Wave II, in terms of management of fields and transporting crude and fuel," Hochstein said. He, along with a second U.S. official, gave separate briefings to Iraq Oil Report on the Abu Sayyaf documents and the ways in which those revelations have shaped military strategy.

Abu Sayyaf's records confirmed that strikes on field infrastructure - including pumps, flow lines, manifolds, and even wellheads - could not stop production entirely, and in some cases took facilities offline for only a few days. Many of the 200-plus wells controlled by IS have enough natural pressure to gush oil without any mechanical assistance, albeit at reduced rates, and even when equipment could not be repaired, field workers resorted to rudimentary methods such as digging nearby pits to collect and store crude until it could be pumped onto trucks, according to the second U.S. official.
Iraq  Mar15  ISIS  oil  intelligence  obama_administration  USG  DoD  energy 
january 2016 by elizrael
US military drafting 'new narrative' for ISIS war | TheHill, Dec 27, 2015
The U.S. military is seeking to craft a “new narrative” for the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), in part to push back on the growing perception that President Obama does not have a strategy.

Military officials on the Operation Inherent Resolve task force have recently formed a working group to formulate the narrative, defense officials told The Hill. Separately, the Joint Staff has drafted its own messaging document. 

The steps are preliminary and are part of a larger effort to better communicate the United States's military strategy amid heavy criticism from Republican presidential candidates who say Obama is losing the battle against the terrorist group.
Propaganda  Mar15  ISIS  obama_administration  DoD 
december 2015 by elizrael
In ISIS Strategy, U.S. Weighs Risk to Civilians - The New York Times
Yet, despite the American air campaign against the Islamic State, the white, three-story building remains standing because it also houses a jail. Its inmates are mainly victims of the extremist group — men caught sneaking a cigarette, women spotted with clothes that reveal even a hint of skin, shop owners who failed to pay their bills — and for American officials, the risk of killing any of them in an airstrike is too high.

The same is true of six other nearby buildings, including a mosque and court complex, which, together with city hall, compose the closest thing the Islamic State has to a headquarters.
ISIS  Raqqa  humanShields  Mar15  obama_administration  DoD  USG 
december 2015 by elizrael
Obama tries a Band-Aid for Syria - LA Times, Nov 4, 2015
Here's what Obama actually decided: He approved a Pentagon proposal to send "less than 50" troops into northern Syria to take a firsthand look at the Kurdish and Arab forces the United States wants to support there.

The initial detachment is supposed to stay on the ground less than 60 days and report back. They're not going to engage in combat. They're not going to accompany local forces on combat missions. They're not even going to call in U.S. airstrikes.

What they're mostly going to do, Pentagon officials say, is meet with opposition groups, determine what kind of U.S. aid they need and try to get them to coordinate their operations.
DoD  obama_administration  Mar15  ForeignFighters  SDF  Obama 
december 2015 by elizrael
Obama’s New ISIS War Plan: Nothing - The Daily Beast, May 29, 2015
“I think this is driven by a sense that this not our fight and so we are just going to try to contain it and have influence where we can,” one official who works closely on the military strategy explained to The Daily Beast. “This is a long fight, and it will be up to the next administration to tackle.”

Rather than aiming for a decisive victory, the U.S. approach has devolved into simply maintaining a low boil in perpetuity.

They said they realize that the political strategy supersedes the military one; there is no public appetite for ground troops in Iraq; there is frustration about corruption within the Iraqi government; and there is a lack of a clear alternative approach.

“It’s a political response,” one official explained. “They are doing ‘something’ to inoculate themselves from substantial criticism.”
DoD  obama_administration  ISIS  foreign_policy 
november 2015 by elizrael
How the Obama White House runs foreign policy - The Washington Post, Aug 4, 2015
In the Defense Department, where mistrust of the White House has persisted since the administration began, Obama is described as resolute and bold when a quick executive action is needed on operations such as hostage rescues and targeted captures and killings.

However, when the president has wanted to move swiftly on some of his most ambitious policy initiatives — the opening to Cuba and the early Iran nuclear negotiations — he has circumvented the usual practice for decision-making and kept a close hold within the White House.

But on a host of other important issues, the NSC, designed in Harry Truman’s time to coordinate sometimes-conflicting diplomatic and defense views, is still widely seen as the place where policy becomes immobilized by indecision, plodding through months and sometimes years of repetitive White House meetings.
decision_making  DoD  NSC  obama_administration  Obama  Susan_Rice  CIA  Egypt  coup  SamanthaPower  JohnKerry  Hagel  refugees  Ukraine  unnamed_official 
november 2015 by elizrael
U.S. Is Debating Ways to Shield Syrian Civilians - The New York Times, Oct 23, 2015
The Obama administration is locked in a sharp new debate over whether to deploy American military forces to establish no-fly zones and safe havens in Syria to protect civilians caught in its grinding civil war.

The White House remains deeply skeptical about the idea, but the growing refugee crisis in Europe and Russia’s military intervention in Syria have increased pressure on President Obama to take more forceful action. Secretary of State John Kerry and others renewed their push at a tense White House meeting on Monday to use air power to shield Syrians from the fighting, officials said.

But at the same meeting, which included Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, a Pentagon report presented sobering estimates of the extensive military resources required to enforce such zones, leaving many at the table dubious about the wisdom of taking action.

Among the options discussed on Monday were establishing safe zones for civilians on Syria’s borders with Turkey and Jordan. Officials presented different variants, including some that had safe zones exclusively for humanitarian relief and more ambitious versions that would provide sanctuary for Syrian opposition forces allied with Americans.

Some said they suspected that Pentagon officials, who have been resistant to further American military intervention in Syria, inflated the figures to persuade the president not to change his policy.

Skeptics of intervention saw no indications that Mr. Obama would reverse himself, viewing the process as mainly an exercise in due diligence.

At Monday’s meeting, officials debated how the zones could be set up solely to protect civilians, rather than as staging areas for rebels to launch attacks against Syrian government forces.

Military experts cautioned that this would be difficult to enforce without large numbers of ground troops, most likely from Turkey or Jordan, in Syria.
Russia  NFZ  internal_struggle  DoD  JohnKerry  obama_administration  Obama  BufferZone 
november 2015 by elizrael
White House Is Weighing a Syria Retreat - Bloomberg View, Oct 9, 2015
A week into Russia's military intervention in Syria, some top White House advisers and National Security Council staffers are trying to persuade President Barack Obama to scale back U.S. engagement there, to focus on lessening the violence and, for now, to give up on toppling the Syrian regime.

“The White House somehow thinks we can de-escalate the conflict while keeping Assad in power,” one senior administration official told us.

That view, being pushed by top White House National Security staffers, including senior coordinator for the Middle East Rob Malley, is not new. But it has received fresh emphasis given Russian intervention.

The NSC view is opposed by top officials in other parts of the government, especially Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. They are trying to persuade Obama that the only way to solve Syria is to increase the pressure on Assad in the hopes he will enter negotiations.

Other officials told us that while U.S. still has programs in place to aid the moderate opposition, top members of the administration who have been pushing for more of that support, or for the establishment of safe zones in Syria, are increasingly frustrated with the White House’s reluctance. This group included Kerry and General John Allen, the outgoing special envoy to the anti-Islamic State coalition.
RobMalley  NSC  Mar15  Russia  obama_administration  foreign_policy  Kerry  SamanthaPower  internal_struggle  intelligence_assessment  intervention  DoD 
october 2015 by elizrael
Exclusive: This Is the ISIS Intel the U.S. Military Dumbed Down - The Daily Beast, Sep 20, 2015
Senior intelligence officials at the U.S. military’s Central Command demanded significant alterations to analysts’ reports that questioned whether airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State widely known as ISIS were damaging the group’s finances and its ability to launch attacks. But reports that showed the group being weakened by the U.S.-led air campaign received comparatively little scrutiny, The Daily Beast has learned.

Senior CENTCOM intelligence officials who reviewed the critical reports sent them back to the analysts and ordered them to write new versions that included more footnotes and details to support their assessments, according to two officials familiar with a complaint levied by more than 50 analysts about intelligence manipulation by CENTCOM higher-ups.

In some cases, analysts were also urged to state that killing particular ISIS leaders and key officials would diminish the group and lead to its collapse. Many analysts, however, didn’t believe that simply taking out top ISIS leaders would have an enduring effect on overall operations.
intelligence_assessment  DoD  Mar15  ISIS  obama_administration 
october 2015 by elizrael
5 U.S.-Trained Rebels Fighting ISIS - The Daily Beast, Sep 16, 2015
Just “four or five” U.S.-trained anti-ISIS fighters are combatting the so-called Islamic State, a top American military official told Congress on Wednesday, despite a program that cost as much as $500 million. It is a staggeringly low number for a project in which the Obama administration had initially planned to train 5,400 fighters a year. At this pace of training, U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin told a Senate committee, the U.S. “won’t reach the goal we initially established for ourself.” In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Austin and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth gave a relatively rosy picture of the U.S.-led effort to defeat ISIS, characterizing the Syrian train-and-equip program as merely “off to a slow start.”
USTraining  Mar15  DoD 
october 2015 by elizrael
Exclusive: 50 Spies Say ISIS Intelligence Was Cooked - The Daily Beast, Sep 9, 2015
That complaint was supported by 50 other analysts, some of whom have complained about politicizing of intelligence reports for months. That’s according to 11 individuals who are knowledgeable about the details of the report and who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity.

The accusations suggest that a large number of people tracking the inner workings of the terror groups think that their reports are being manipulated to fit a public narrative.

Some reports crafted by the analysts that were too negative in their assessment of the war were sent back down the chain of the command or not shared up the chain, several analysts said. Still others, feeling the climate around them, self-censored so their reports affirmed already-held beliefs.
intelligence_assessment  politics  obama_administration  ISIS  Mar15  DoD 
october 2015 by elizrael
Obama Administration Ends Pentagon Program to Train Syrian Rebels - The New York Times
A senior Defense Department official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that there would no longer be any more recruiting of so-called moderate Syrian rebels to go through training programs in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. Instead, a much smaller training center would be set up in Turkey, where a small group of “enablers” — mostly leaders of opposition groups — would be taught operational maneuvers like how to call in airstrikes.

While many details of the new approach still need to be worked out, President Obama endorsed the shift in strategy at two high-level meetings with his national security and foreign policy advisers last week, several American officials said.

The official said the training was “to be suspended, with the option to restart if conditions dictate, opportunities arise.” The official also said that support to Sunni Arab fighters in eastern Syria was an example of focusing on groups already fighting the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, “rather than using training to try to manufacture new brigades.”

Mr. Obama ordered the Pentagon, for the first time, to directly provide ammunition and perhaps some weapons to Syrian opposition forces on the ground. He also endorsed an idea for an increased air campaign from an air base in Turkey, although important details of that plan still need to be worked out.

Together, these measures are intended to empower 3,000 to 5,000 Arab fighters, a conglomeration of 10 to 15 groups, who would join more than 20,000 Kurdish combatants in an offensive backed by dozens of coalition warplanes to pressure the Islamic State in Raqqa, the militant group’s main stronghold in Syria.
PYD  FSA  Mar15  UStraining  DoD  foreign_aid  weapons  ISIS 
october 2015 by elizrael
Russia escalating Syria war by targeting moderate opposition: U.S. | Reuters
"By taking military action in Syria against moderate groups targets, Russia has escalated the civil war," Carter said in a speech during a trip to Spain.
DoD  Mar15  obama_administration  Russia  intervention  FSA 
october 2015 by elizrael
Conflicting Agendas, Caution Beset Pentagon’s Plans in Syria - WSJ
Fighters who made it to the screening centers were confused about the mission. When they learned what it was, many left. Others were found unfit, including one who showed up with open gunshot wounds. Under pressure to show operational success, the Pentagon started in July to field smaller groups than it wanted and watched from the sidelines as fighters fought the wrong enemy, or handed over equipment to al Qaeda or melted into Syria’s chaos.

The White House has been noncommittal. A leading proposal would scale back the mission to training small teams of “enablers” to call in airstrikes with the goal of pushing Islamic State out of areas near the Turkish border between the Euphrates River and the Mediterranean. Another would speed the program by having the Pentagon vet only top commanders, rather than every fighter.

Asked about the setbacks at a news conference on Friday, Mr. Obama acknowledged the program “has not worked the way it was supposed to,” citing the difficulty of finding allies in Syria willing to focus on combating Islamic State instead of the Assad regime.

Pentagon officials say they knew from the outset it would be hard to build a force from Syria’s chaotic patchwork of rebel alliances. Military leaders raised questions with the White House about the mission and waited months for answers, according to current and former U.S. officials.

“There is no one and nothing left except for a few members who are with me now,” said Col. Mohammad Daher, who also goes by Abu Husam, a leader from the first class of recruits. “We have no weapons or equipment and we are trying to get to Turkey,” he said from Syria last month.

Last year, the White House cautiously embraced the idea of creating a parallel military program to combat Islamic State. Then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other military leaders sent private memos to the White House asking for clarification about the mission’s goals, according to current and former U.S. officials.

But the White House postponed answering some of the toughest questions until the first class crossed the border, according to those officials. Those questions included whether the U.S. would defend fighters attacked by the Assad regime or evacuate them if injured.

Col. Daher, one of the first fighters to go through the screening process, said half of his group of 30 quit after finding out they would be allowed only to fight Islamic State, not the regime. Those who decided to proceed waited sometimes three days or longer for word on whether they were accepted.

U.S. military officers said they didn’t explicitly tell recruits they couldn’t fight the Assad regime, rather that the U.S. wouldn’t support them if they did so.

Military commanders wanted to train fighters in groups of up to 300, but vetting and logistical delays meant the Pentagon settled for classes of between 50 and 70.

When the unit’s commander finally called Central Command, he acknowledged the lapse. Pentagon officials are still investigating whether any U.S.-supplied weapons were handed over. In the wake of the setbacks, the flow of new fighters to screening sites has stopped, pending a decision about the program’s future, officials said. The third Pentagon class has agreed to remain in Jordan, where it is helping train the fourth class. It is unclear when either will be sent to Syria.
USTraining  DoD  Mar15  intelligence  FSA  Jordan  JabhatAl-Nusra  turkey 
october 2015 by elizrael
Centcom Concedes to The Daily Beast on Syria Rebel - The Daily Beast, Sep 27, 2015
The Daily Beast learned that, two days after the latest little contingent of U.S.-trained forces entered Syria, a commander named Anas Ibrahim Obaid, known as Abu Zayd, linked up with them, and handed over their U.S.-supplied equipment to Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al Qaeda franchise in Syria.

The U.S. military also conceded last week that six vehicles and an untold amount of ammunition ended up in the hands of Nusra after, as the Pentagon put it, a U.S.-trained Syrian force commander gave up the equipment in exchange for safe passage. The Pentagon, at that point, ruled out Abu Zayd as the possible link behind the equipment ending up in Nusra hands, insisting he was only vetted by the U.S. military, but had never received U.S. training, ergo, he couldn’t be the guy who gave up all that stuff.

Last week, The Daily Beast acquired video of Obaid with U.S. trainees entering the Syrian city of Atareb. Abu Zayd’s appearance alongside U.S.-trained troops suggested that the commander somehow managed to make himself the leader of the troops who passed the U.S. vetting system that he’d failed. Moreover, it meant Abu Zayd had direct access to weapons and equipment provided by the U.S.

Who is this guy? Abu Zayd is a commander in Division 30, a rebel group from which the United States recruits fighters to receive U.S. training and equipment as long as they agree to fight ISIS instead of, or at least before, making war on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
USTraining  DoD  FSA  JabhatAl-Nusra  weapons  Mar15 
september 2015 by elizrael
Pentagon preparing shift in approach in Syria || AP, Sep 17, 2015
The Obama administration is preparing a major overhaul of its failed effort to train thousands of moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State group, shifting from preparing rebels for frontline combat to a plan to embed them with established Kurdish and Arab forces in northeastern Syria, U.S. officials said.

Instead of fighting the Islamic State in small units, the U.S.-trained rebels would be attached to larger existing Kurdish and Arab forces. They would be equipped with U.S. communications gear and trained to provide intelligence and to designate IS targets for airstrikes in coordination with U.S. troops outside of Syria, the officials said.

Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters Thursday that officials are looking to make "adjustments," adding, "We're asking a host of questions about this program." He said the plan is for it to continue "in some form or fashion." He was not more specific.

Austin, who leads the anti-Islamic State campaign, told a Senate committee Wednesday that only four or five U.S.-trained rebels are currently operating inside Syria. That compares to the administration's original goal to train and equip 5,000 fighters by the end of this year.
DoD  Mar15  USTraining  PYD  obama_administration 
september 2015 by elizrael
Sources Detail Skewed Reports On How The U.S. Is Doing Against ISIS : The Two-Way : NPR
Two military sources familiar with the investigation say that, while they haven't discovered a direct order to cherry-pick intelligence, it was something that evolved because of the way data were handled and produced.

"The bad news didn't just need to be footnoted," one military source, who did not want to be further identified because he is involved with the inquiry, told NPR. "The intelligence data itself had to be attached to the report. It became pretty clear if they wrote something bad, it was likely to be changed. Knowing that bad news on ISIS wasn't welcome meant that, over time, the picture of the fight began being rosier."

A military source described the evolution of one report that came out of CENTCOM's intelligence shop. It was a dispatch on an ISIS attack in Iraq near the Syrian border. The initial CENTCOM report read, "Iraqi forces retreated." It was sent back for reworking, the source said. Eventually that report came to read that the Iraqi forces had not retreated, but instead had reinforced another Iraqi position. The final draft suggested a strategic decision had been made. But that was not what happened, the source said — the Iraqi forces ran. A second source confirmed the account of the change in wording to put the Iraqi forces in a more positive light.
intelligence_assessment  Mar15  obama_administration  USG  DoD 
september 2015 by elizrael
Analysts Detail Claims That Reports on ISIS Were Distorted - The New York Times
A group of intelligence analysts have provided investigators with documents they say show that senior military officers manipulated the conclusions of reports on the war against the Islamic State, according to several government officials, as lawmakers from both parties voiced growing anger that they may have received a distorted picture about the military campaign’s progress.

The New York Times reported last month that the investigation had begun, but the scope of the inquiry and the focus of the allegations were unclear. The officials now say that the analysts at the center of the investigation allege that their superiors within Centcom’s intelligence operation changed conclusions about a number of topics, including the readiness of Iraqi security forces and the success of the bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria.
intelligence_assessment  obama_administration  USG  DoD  Mar15  Iraq  ISIS 
september 2015 by elizrael
Exclusive: Syrian Rebels Backing Out of U.S. Fight Vs. ISIS - The Daily Beast, May 31, 2015
Mustapha Sejari, one of the rebels who says he's approved for the U.S. training program, told The Daily Beast that he and his 1,000 men are on the verge of withdrawing their candidacies. The issue: the American government’s demand that the rebels can’t use any of their newfound battlefield prowess or U.S.-provided weaponry against the army of Bashar al-Assad or any of its manifold proxies and allies, which include Iranian-built militias such as Lebanese Hezbollah. They must only fight ISIS, Washington insists.

“We submitted the names of 1,000 fighters for the program, but then we got this request to promise not to use any of our training against Assad,” Sejari, a founding member of the Revolutionary Command Council, said. “It was a Department of Defense liaison officer who relayed this condition to us orally, saying we’d have to sign a form. He told us, ‘We got this money from Congress for a program to fight ISIS only.’ This reason was not convincing for me. So we said no.”
FSA  USTraining  Mar15  DoD  ISIS 
august 2015 by elizrael
Pentagon Turns Its Anti-ISIS Rebels Into Cannon Fodder - The Daily Beast, July 30, 2015
“If you wanted to sabotage your strategy, this is a pretty good way to do it,” said one official advising on the process. “None of this is about achieving the objective. It is about going through the motions.”

Elsewhere officials have said that they fear any American confrontation with Assad, an ally of Tehran, would sabotage the loose, ad hoc U.S.-Iranian alliance of convenience against ISIS. America tackling the Damascus regime will lead Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force to instruct Shia militias in Iraq to shoot at U.S. trainers of the Iraqi Security Forces, the thinking goes.
obama_administration  foreign_aid  USTraining  Mar15  FSA  DoD  unnamed_official  Iran  Iraq 
august 2015 by elizrael
U.S. Shelves Its $500M Syrian Rebel Army - The Daily Beast, Aug 11, 2015
“I don’t understand why we are still training, other than to inoculate criticism. … [The administration] cannot admit it is a complete disaster,” said one senior defense adviser familiar with the U.S. approach. Even after the U.S.-trained fighters vanished, “there was no receptivity to new ideas.”

But what Ryder didn’t say is that, 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.

“We knew it would be a challenge but we didn’t expect them to confront the fight they did,” said a second senior defense official, referring to the New Syrian Force. On the other hand, “the YPG is the most effective fighting force in Syria.”

But Ryder and others refused to call training a new force a failed mission, drawing the ire of some within the U.S. military. Rather, they have said building such a force takes time.

In other words, just as funding appeared for the Syrian force, the U.S. found a reliable—and alternative—fighting partner. All the while, the U.S. kept eliminating hundreds of potential New Syrian Force recruits for either not having enough fighting experience or too murky of a background to be trusted. Still other fighters were disqualified when they refused to pledge to not go after Syrian President Bashir al-Assad; most rebels consider him to be a far bigger foe than ISIS.
Mar15  obama_administration  DoD  unnamed_official  PYD  FSA  USTraining 
august 2015 by elizrael
Pentagon Doesn’t Know If It’s Allowed to Defend Syrian Fighters or Turkish ‘Safe Zone’ - Defense One
On a background call Tuesday, three senior administration officials added detail to the news that the U.S. is now backing the establishment of an area variably referred to on the call and by officials as a “safe zone” and “ISIS-free zone” — effectively a no-fly zone — on the Syria-Turkey border. Moderate opposition fighters, in coordination with the U.S. and coalition militaries, would wrest from ISIS the last 68 miles of border west of the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea that the terrorist group still controls, and allow refugees to return to their homes.

“In terms of what exactly it looks like and how it will look and what the modalities are, that’s what we have to work out with them,” one official said of the “safe zone.” “It will not be a no-fly zone just as Kobani was not a no-fly zone. But if there are significant operations going on in an area … We’ve learned an awful lot, so we’re fairly confident that we can figure out how to do this.”

He added later, “Safe zone or whatever you want to call it, the idea is to get [ISIS] out of this area.”

But he dodged a question of what steps the U.S. is considering to ensure there’s no conflict between the U.S. and Syrian government operations given their close proximity in the area. He noted that so far, Assad’s forces haven’t engaged.

“We’ve been at this now for some time,” the official said, noting that some 40 percent of the coalition’s 5,600-plus airstrikes have hit targets in Syria. “And from the first night of the strikes, we’ve been very clear through various channels to the Syrian government that we were going after [ISIS] and that they should not come into the area in which we’re operating. So I would assume that we’ll have a standard procedure.”

The first of those 60 fighters reentered Syria from a base in Jordan several weeks ago, though the Pentagon will not say where they are. On Tuesday, the administration officials acknowledged that the program’s pace thus far has been a “disappointment,” they added that the new agreement for coalition forces to operate out of Turkish air bases would turn these groups into a more effective force.
DoD  UStraining  FSA  Mar15  NFZ  Aleppo  ISIS 
july 2015 by elizrael
U.S. moves its Syrian air campaign to the west | McClatchy, June 30, 2015
The attacks in the Aleppo and Jarablus areas did not rely on Kurdish spotters or ground troops, said a spokesman for the main Syrian Kurdish militia. That’s a change as well; the United States has worked closely with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in the months since blunting the Islamic State effort to seize Kobani became the primary mission of U.S. air efforts in Syria.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren acknowledged the close working relationship between the U.S. and the YPG.

“Our coordination goes through the Joint Operating Center in Irbil,” Warren said, referring to the U.S. military outpost in northern Iraq. “The (Kurdish) forces in Syria who are in the fight, if they need some coalition air power to support them, they will just get on the phone and call the Irbil JOC and say, ‘Hey, we’re in a fight here, we need some help,’ and we send the help.”

YPG spokesman Redur Xalil gave a similar explanation for the way the U.S. works with the Kurdish forces. “We coordinate with the coalition when we are in direct confrontation with the Islamic State,” he said.

That coordination doesn’t apply to the strikes north of Aleppo, however. “In north Aleppo, we have no direct confrontation” with the Islamic State, he explained.

He noted that the anti-government rebels in Aleppo do not enjoy the same close relationship as the YPG has with U.S. forces. “We have no direct coordination with the Americans, though we tried,” he said.
Mar15  foreign_aid  USG  PYD  KRG  DoD  FSA  Aleppo  ISIS 
july 2015 by elizrael
The Unravelling
In the March 2010 elections, with both Sunni and Shia support, the non-sectarian, nationalist Iraqiya bloc won two seats more than Nuri Maliki’s State of Law coalition. But many MPs were disqualified by the de-Baathification committees, Maliki demanded a recount, and then manoeuvred to stay on as prime minister. To his military’s disgust, Obama ignored the deadlock for two months. The new US ambassador Chris Hill, who disliked Iraqis, told Odierno that Iraq wasn’t ready for democracy and needed a Shia strong man. An opinion poll disagreed – only 14% of Iraqis thought Maliki should stay in power. But the Iranians lobbied hard to preserve Maliki and thus to alienate Iraq from the rest of the Arab world. Obama’s acquiescence led one of Sky’s Iraqi informants to complain “Either the Americans are stupid or there is a secret deal with Iran” – an analysis which is still more widespread today. Where Bush made democracy a totem, and thought it could be delivered via occupation, Obama gave up on it entirely. The results of this equally misguided (and orientalist) approach are painfully evident today.
Iraq  obama_administration  books  bush_administration  DoD  Nouri_AlMaliki  authoritarian_regime 
june 2015 by elizrael
The Pentagon Ups the Ante in Syria Fight | Foreign Policy, March 30, 2015
The ban on Special Forces trainers entering Syria is just one of a number of Obama policy directives hampering the special operations training effort — and, with it, the success of the overall U.S. mission against the Islamic State, according to special operations officers. Another is a more general pressure to minimize the U.S. footprint on the ground in Jordan and Iraq. The military is still waiting for the formal authorization to deploy “large formations” of special operations forces, said a special operations lieutenant colonel. “It all goes back to the national policy, and there’s a lot of frustration with that,” he said.

There is also a real risk that the Special Forces soldiers will find themselves in competition with the CIA for the same dwindling band of moderate rebels. The CIA is already training Syrian rebels in Jordan, but that effort is limited by the relatively small number of operatives that Langley can devote to the effort. Hence the introduction of the 5th Special Forces Group, which can train several times the number of guerrillas as the CIA can.
DoD  foreign_aid  USTraining  CIA  FSA  Jordan 
june 2015 by elizrael
Military Hates White House ‘Micromanagement’ of ISIS War - The Daily Beast, Oct 31, 2014
Top military leaders in the Pentagon and in the field are growing increasingly frustrated by the tight constraints the White House has placed on the plans to fight ISIS and train a new Syrian rebel army.

As the American-led battle against ISIS stretches into its fourth month, the generals and Pentagon officials leading the air campaign and preparing to train Syrian rebels are working under strict White House orders to keep the war contained within policy limits. The National Security Council has given precise instructions on which rebels can be engaged, who can be trained, and what exactly those fighters will do when they return to Syria. Most of the rebels to be trained by the U.S. will never be sent to fight against ISIS.

Making matters worse, military officers and civilian Pentagon leaders tell The Daily Beast, is the ISIS war’s decision-making process, run by National Security Adviser Susan Rice. It’s been manic and obsessed with the tiniest of details.
DoD  NSC  Susan_Rice  decision_making  Mar15  foreign_aid  USTraining 
june 2015 by elizrael
Team of Bumblers? - Michael Hirsh - POLITICO Magazine, Oct 26, 2014
According to multiple sources, behind the scenes a few things went badly awry in the launch of Obama’s new policy. First, the Pentagon was surprised by the president’s timing, according to a senior defense official. “We didn’t know it was going to be in the speech,” he said, referring to Obama’s Sept. 10 address to the nation. Second, the White House neglected to give Pentagon lawyers a chance to revise and approve the proposed legislative language before it went to the Hill, which is considered standard practice. Staffers working for Rep. Buck McKeon, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said they were appalled by what they saw: language so sloppy that it failed to mention adequate protections against so-called “green-on-blue” attacks by trainees on American troops, and effectively left the Defense Department liable for funding the mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)—even though the president was telling members of Congress he didn’t need money for this new mission, since the Saudis were putting it up. “What came over would have not have been a mission the DoD could have executed,” says a senior Republican committee staffer.

The Armed Services Committee later went directly to the Pentagon and worked out new language, the White House approved it, and Obama signed the legislation as part of a new Continuing Resolution on Sept. 19. But that was hardly the first instance in recent months when the White House failed to consult with the Pentagon. The office of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was taken by surprise as well last July, when national security adviser Susan Rice sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner requesting a withdrawal of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed in 2002 to enable U.S. military action in Iraq. This letter came after Mosul, a key northern Iraqi city, had already fallen to ISIL and the scale of the threat was becoming clear. The letter was never acted on, and in fact the AUMF that Rice wanted withdrawn is now part of the very authority the administration says it is operating under, along with the 2001 AUMF against al Qaeda. The Pentagon was not given a heads-up about that letter either, according to multiple sources. “We didn’t know it was going over there, and there were significant concerns about it,” said the senior defense official. “We had these authorities to go into Iraq under the 2002 AUMF, which is what she wanted repealed. We believed the authorities were still needed.”

Indeed, the Syrian-rebel incident recalled a more famous instance of White House surprise tactics a year earlier, when after a stroll on the White House lawn with chief of staff Denis McDonough, Obama embarrassed Kerry by abruptly deciding to ask for congressional approval for bombing the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad—only hours after Kerry had publicly declared that Assad was facing imminent action.

In their recent memoirs, former defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta also have described the White House-centric foreign policy of the Obama administration—in Panetta’s case, a White House that he said was so “eager to rid itself of Iraq” it rejected Pentagon advice about the need for residual troops in Iraq after 2011, opening the way for ISIL. Gates was even more pointed, writing that “suspicion and distrust of senior military officers by senior White House officials—including the president and vice president—became a big problem for me.”
“I think this is the most insular White House national security team in recent history,” says Jim Thomas, vice president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a former senior Pentagon official, who added that the president’s most recent big decision, picking an “Ebola czar,” was “symptomatic of the problem.” The choice: former Joe Biden chief of staff Ron Klain, picked by a White House seemingly unconcerned over the dubious optics of naming a Beltway politico to battle a deadly international disease.
obama_administration  decision_making  Obama  NSC  DoD  Hagel  Susan_Rice  Mar15  ISIS 
june 2015 by elizrael
U.S. begins training Syrian rebel force - The Washington Post
The program, which is separate from a CIA initiative to assist Syrian rebels, aims to train up to 5,400 Syrians a year at facilities in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Once they have undergone U.S. training, the Syrians will be sent back into Syria with basic military gear, including vehicles, small arms, ammunition, trucks and machine guns to be mounted on the back of trucks.

The U.S. official said the Syrians now being trained in Jordan hail from the same area of Syria and were now being educated in basic military tactics and activities. The fighters are receiving a stipend from the United States.
foreign_aid  USG  DoD  Mar15  FSA  Jordan 
may 2015 by elizrael
When things go wrong, Obama increasingly relies on his inner circle, not his Cabinet - The Washington Post, Oct 22,2014
Several current and former administration officials say that although Cabinet officials are now empowered to pursue specific projects, they are still sometimes excluded from key decision-making sessions.
obama_administration  decision_making  foreign_policy  internal_struggle  NSC  State_Department  DoD 
march 2015 by elizrael
U.S. will use psych evaluations, stress tests to screen Syrian rebels for training - The Washington Post, Nov 28,2014
Officials said that rebels will also be evaluated during the military training to see how they respond under stress, fear and fatigue.

“Those that clearly show or exhibit behavior that is not going to be compatible with where we want to go, then they’re removed from the program,” the CENTCOM official said.
foreign_aid  obama_administration  DoD  FSA  Mar15 
march 2015 by elizrael
Obama should blame himself, not Chuck Hagel, for Hagel's failure as Defense Secretary - Vox
Obama has been trying something very different with his foreign policy during his second term. That approach doomed Hagel to failure.

The way that presidents traditionally make foreign policy is by working with, and through, the key agencies: the State Department, the CIA and other intelligence agencies, and of course the Pentagon. That's what Obama did in his first term, in part by appointing strong people to lead the agencies, particularly Robert M. Gates to run the Pentagon and Hillary Clinton at the State Department. Gates and Clinton were strong forces running their agencies and within the White House, shaping US foreign policy through both.

That made for good policy, but it came at costs: Gates and Clinton and their respective agencies pushed foreign policy in directions that Obama wouldn't have gone on his own, for example by intervening in Libya in 2011 and sending more troops to Afghanistan in 2009. They and their agencies leaked unflattering quotes and stories. And they hammered Obama with open criticism.

Obama hated all of this, and so in his second term he deliberately appointed weak cabinet secretaries whom he could control: Hagel and John Kerry, who became Secretary of State, are both Obama's former Senate colleagues and friendly allies; they are also not known as strong-willed. Then Obama weakened the agencies (Pentagon, State Department, CIA) even further by concentrating more and more of the foreign policy decision-making within a small, closed White House team.

At the center of that team is National Security Advisor Susan Rice. The National Security Council (NSC), which Rice leads, is supposed to be the president's personal White House brain trust for foreign policy. But it's become something much bigger: the chief foreign policy agency of the Unites States.

That would be okay if Obama's small White House staff were so brilliant that they could really replace the hundreds of people at the State Department and Pentagon who are supposed to be setting US foreign policy. But they're not, and they can't, and that's part of why American foreign policy has been sort of a mess the last couple of years. Hagel never had a chance.
obama_administration  chuckHagel  decision_making  NSC  DoD  State_Department  internal_struggle 
november 2014 by elizrael
Syrians to be trained to defend territory, not take ground from jihadists, officials say - The Washington Post, Oct 22, 2014
Although moderate Syrian fighters are deemed essential to defeating the Islamic State under the Obama administration’s strategy, officials do not believe the newly assembled units will be capable of capturing key towns from militants without the help of forward-deployed U.S. combat teams, which President Obama has so far ruled out. The Syrian rebel force will be tasked instead with trying to prevent the Islamic State from extending its reach beyond the large stretches of territory it already controls.

“We have a big disconnect within our strategy. We need a credible, moderate Syrian force, but we have not been willing to commit what it takes to build that force,” said a senior U.S. official involved in Syria and Iraq operation

Military commanders are reluctant to push Syrian fighters into full-scale battles with well-armed militants if they cannot summon close air support and medical evacuations, mindful of how fledgling forces in Iraq and Afghanistan crumbled without that assistance during the early years of the wars in those nations. But U.S. military aircraft cannot provide that aid without American or allied troops in close proximity to provide accurate targeting information on secure radio channels.

“You cannot field an effective force if you’re not on the ground to advise and assist them,” said a senior U.S. military officer with extensive experience in training the Iraqi and Afghan militaries.

The Obama administration’s plan calls for U.S. Special Operations troops to recruit moderate Syrian opponents of the Islamic State from refugee communities in Jordan, Turkey and other nations. They will be flown to Saudi Arabia, trained for about eight weeks, and then sent into the small enclaves of Syria already controlled by the Free Syrian Army and other moderate opponents of the Islamic State. The first units are expected to be deployed in roughly six months.

“The plan is for them to safeguard cleared areas,” said a senior official of an Arab nation that is part of the U.S.-led coalition and who has been briefed on the training program. “They will end up being a defensive force more than an offensive force.”

Those officials maintain that it is premature to focus on the question of whether U.S. advisers should deploy with the new Syrian force. A more pressing concern, they contend, is the challenge of recruiting willing, competent fighters from Syrian refugee communities. U.S. officials do not want to pull away members of the Free Syrian Army who already are fighting in Syria, but they worry that many of those who have fled the country as refugees may not want to return to their war-ravaged homeland.

The officials said they intend for U.S. troops to use the basic training sessions, which will focus on unit discipline and elementary combat skills, to identify promising candidates for more advanced courses. Those individuals could be schooled to engage in more offensive missions.

“We will evolve and learn as the program proceeds,” said a senior Defense Department official. For now, the official said, “there is an enormous focus on building leadership structure.”

U.S. officials are talking to the governments of Jordan, Qatar and Turkey about opening additional training camps in those nations, should the volume of recruits exceed capacity in the two facilities that are being established in Saudi Arabia.

The senior Defense Department official said the administration is “committed to making sure these forces succeed.” Other officials said those steps could involve the use of covert operatives and private contractors reporting to the CIA, not the Pentagon, who could provide combat advice to Syrian forces and summon air support. Another option under consideration is to ask Arab nations that have participated in airstrikes on Islamic State targets to send some of their special operations units to Syria.
FSA  Mar15  obama_administration  foreign_aid  Saudi-Arabia  intelligence  NFZ  DoD  CIA  important 
october 2014 by elizrael
Obama Taps Star General To Build Syrian Rebel Army to Fight ISIS - The Daily Beast
So far, according to this lawmaker, the CIA has trained no more than 3,000 rebels since 2012 out of the Jordanian base. 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testified to Congress last week that the new Syrian rebel train and equip program will train around 5,000 rebels per year. Two senior Congressional aides who were briefed on the plan said that each rebel training base will be able to churn out 1,800 rebels per year. There are two planned for Saudi Arabia and one planned for Jordan, although the Jordanian government has yet to sign off on hosting the site. The plan is designed to be scalable and more training bases could come in future years.
FSA  Mar15  DoD  obama_administration  foreign_aid 
september 2014 by elizrael
Pentagon Lays Out Options for U.S. Military Effort in Syria -, July 23, 2013
The options, which range from training opposition troops to conducting airstrikes and enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria, are not new. But General Dempsey provided details about the logistics and the costs of each. He noted that long-range strikes on the Syrian government’s military targets would require “hundreds of aircraft, ships, submarines and other enablers,” and cost “in the billions.”

If ordered by the president, General Dempsey wrote, the military is ready to carry out options that include efforts to train, advise and assist the opposition; conduct limited missile strikes; set up a no-fly zone; establish buffer zones, most likely across the borders with Turkey or Jordan; and take control of Mr. Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile.

“All of these options would likely further the narrow military objective of helping the opposition and placing more pressure on the regime,” General Dempsey wrote. But he added: “Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”
DoD  Mar15  obama_administration  HumanitarianIntervention 
october 2013 by elizrael
Pentagon proposes training moderate Syrian rebels -, Sep 18, 2013
The Pentagon has "put a proposal on the table" for U.S. military forces to train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces for the first time, two Obama administration officials told CNN.

The training proposal was first floated in the days after the August attack as a means to step up U.S. support for the opposition.

The proposal envisions U.S. troops training certain rebels on small arms, command and control and military tactics, according to one of the officials.

Weapons however would not be directly supplied by the United States because legal authority does not exist for the Pentagon to arm the rebels.

The training idea, however, has run into trouble in recent days as the United States has focused on diplomatic efforts to turn Syria's chemical weapons over to international control, sidelining at least for now Obama's push for congressional support to take military action.

Both administration officials said the timing might be too sensitive now to engage in such an initiative.
Mar15  FSA  DoD  foreign_aid 
september 2013 by elizrael
The No-Plan Zone - By Micah Zenko | Foreign Policy, June 4, 2013
Last week, the Daily Beast published an "exclusive" news story supported by comments from two anonymous administration officials: "Obama Asks Pentagon for Syria No-Fly Zone Plan." The newsworthiness and hype surrounding such reporting was puzzling given that the military's operational plans for a no-fly zone (NFZ) in Syria were completed many months ago and have been refined as new information has become available. Of course, versions of these plans have also been briefed in detail to the White House on multiple occasions. Soon after the Daily Beast story ran, Pentagon spokesperson Dave Lapan felt compelled to declare: "There is no new planning effort underway." This failed effort to plant a story about White House interest in NFZ options for Syria is perhaps the most perfunctory effort ever to coerce a foreign leader -- in this case, Bashar al-Assad, before the forthcoming diplomatic discussions in Geneva.

The Obama administration's leaks should not be surprising -- they are representative of the theatrical and half-hearted nature of America's debate over military intervention in Syria. On March 27, 2011, just one week after a U.S.-led coalition began selectively enforcing an NFZ over Libya, then-Senator Joseph Lieberman endorsed a similar measure for Syria, in case Assad "turns his weapons on his people and begins to slaughter them, as Qaddafi did." Over the subsequent 27 months, every plausible military tactic and mission has been exhaustively analyzed and deliberated by policymakers, active-duty and retired military officials, pundits (including myself), journalists, and others.
realpolitik  HumanitarianIntervention  Mar15  obama_administration  DoD 
july 2013 by elizrael
גנרל אמריקאי: ארה"ב משלמת מחיר ביטחוני בגלל הסכסוך הישראלי-פלסטיני - מדיני ביטחוני - הארץ
באשר להתנחלויות הוסיף מאטיס כי הן מסכנות את עתידה של ישראל. "אם אני מיישב 500 מתנחלים יהודים במזרח ירושלים, והם מוקפים בעשרת אלפים ערבים - אם נעביר את הגבול כדי לכלול אותם, אז או שזו תחדל להיות מדינה יהודית או שזו תהיה מדינה שתשלול מהערבים את זכות ההצבעה – מדינת אפרטהייד", אמר. "זה לא עבד הכי טוב בפעם האחרונה שראיתי מדינה מנסה את זה. לכן אנחנו חייבים לעבוד על זה בדחיפות".
DoD  Israel  Peace_Process  occupation  Apartheid  settlements  two-state_solution 
july 2013 by elizrael
Obama's Gray Man - By James Mann | Foreign Policy, May 28, 2013
The gist of the complaints is that Donilon burns out personnel with his unending requests for more and more paperwork on the details of foreign policy (he asks for extensive briefing papers, even before a meeting with a journalist) and that Donilon sometimes treats subordinates in a curt fashion, either on his own or through a brusque young aide.

Another source of suspicion is Donilon's background in partisan politics. He first rose to prominence as a Democratic political operative, went to work for Jimmy Carter's White House right after his college graduation, and became Carter's delegate-counter at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. (At the Palm, the Washington steakhouse where old pals from the Carter administration still gather for Friday lunches, the question gets asked from time to time: How did a pol like Donilon end up as national security advisor?)
Thomas_Donilon  obama_administration  internal_struggle  NSC  State_Department  DoD 
june 2013 by elizrael
Obama Asks Pentagon For Syria No-Fly Zone Plan - The Daily Beast, May 28, 2013
The White House has asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for a no-fly zone inside Syria that would be enforced by the U.S. and other countries such as France and Great Britain, two administration officials told The Daily Beast.

The request was made shortly before Secretary of State John Kerry toured the Middle East last week to try and finalize plans for an early June conference between the Syrian regime and rebel leaders in Geneva. The opposition, however, has yet to confirm its attendance and is demanding that the end of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s rule be a precondition for negotiations, a condition Assad is unlikely to accept.

Pentagon spokesman Dave Lapan sent the following statement to The Daily Beast after this story posted: “There is no new planning effort underway. The Joint Staff, along with the relevant combatant commanders, continue to conduct prudent planning for a range of possible military options.”
NFZ  obama_administration  Mar15  foreign_aid  HumanitarianIntervention  unnamed_official  DoD 
june 2013 by elizrael
U.S.: Intelligence points to small-scale use of sarin in Syria -
- The United States has evidence that the chemical weapon sarin has been used in Syria on a small scale, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.
CW  Mar15  ChuckHagel  DoD  obama_administration 
april 2013 by elizrael
Syria Conflict: Inside Obama's Syria Debate -, Mar 29, 2013
A reconstruction of months of conversations within the administration—based on interviews with two dozen senior officials in Washington, Europe and the Middle East—suggests that process has been slowed by internal divisions, miscalculations and bureaucratic inertia.

The Pentagon drew up military options but made clear to the White House they were unpalatable. State Department calls for intervention grew but weren't aggressively pursued or enough to overcome White House resistance. Administration lawyers, meanwhile, raised doubts whether the U.S. even had a legal basis for using force in Syria. And America's allies talked up the need to do something but got cold feet at crucial junctures so little was done.

The cautious approach comes from the president himself, buttressed by advisers including Denis McDonough, now the White House chief of staff. Their view: Syria is awash in arms and adding more risks worsening violence without improving rebel chances of victory.

The most engaged U.S. effort thus far comes from the CIA, which is working with European and Arab spy services to provide intelligence, training and logistical support to select rebel groups, according to U.S., European and Arab officials. Nevertheless, CIA operatives are frustrated by what they see as the Obama administration's reluctance to provide the rebels with the items they say they need most, including arms and cash, according to current and former officials.

The administration committee charged with Syria policy was kept on a tight leash by Mr. McDonough, then the deputy national security adviser and a close confidante to Mr. Obama, participants say. They said Mr. McDonough made clear that Mr. Obama wasn't interested in proposals that could lead the U.S. down a slippery slope to military intervention; instead, he had the committee focus mostly on post-Assad planning.

Mrs. Clinton spoke in favor of the initiative but her remarks were brief. U.N. Ambassador Rice argued strongly against arming the rebels, citing doubts about the opposition. Ms. Rice through a spokeswoman declined to comment.

Officials said Mr. McDonough held smaller side meetings in which officials debated whether the White House should authorize so-called "accelerants"—covert measures designed to speed Mr. Assad's fall. Those proposals, too, met with caution at the White House, which worried it could undercut U.S. efforts to persuade Russia to halt military aid to the Syrian regime.
Mar15  obama_administration  foreign_aid  foreign_policy  unnamed_official  White_House  Obama  DenisMcDonough  DoD  State_Department  hillary_clinton  CIA  internal_struggle  NATO  Turkey  intelligence_assessment  Susan_Rice  weapons  NFZ  Russia 
march 2013 by elizrael
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