One thing you might have noticed of late is that Washington seems to be preparing the US public for the possibility that the Pentagon is going to put “boots on the ground” in Syria and by “boots on the ground,” we mean more than 50 “advisors.”
Indeed, it’s the same story in Iraq and as we noted after the release of helmet cam footage depicting an ISIS prison raid in the northern Iraqi town of Huwija late last month, releasing battlefield GoPro shots is probably i) an effort to convince whatever partners the US has left in the Mid-East that Washington is still effective at “fighting” terror, and ii) a prelude to stepped up ground ops.
That assessment was confirmed when the Pentagon suggested it would send Apache gunships and their crews to Baghdad. Of course Iraq poured cold water on that idea when spokesman Sa'ad al-Hadithi told NBC News that "this is an Iraqi affair and the government did not ask the U.S. Department of Defense to be involved in direct operations. We have enough soldiers on the ground."
Yes, enough Iranian soldiers, and so, as we noted earlier this month, the US will either need to go through Erbil to get more US boots in Iraq or else just shift the focus to Syria where putting combat troops into battle risks lining up American soldiers to enter into direct combat with the Quds and Hezbollah and may even risk an “accident” whereby Russia bombs an American position because the Pentagon lied to The Kremlin and said the US wouldn’t be operating near Aleppo.
Well, on Tuesday, we got the latest hint that a large scale (not to mention prolonged) ground operation is in the offing as the U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told reporters that air power alone cannot “defeat ISIS.” Here’s Bloomberg:
The U.S.-led military coalition fighting Islamic State militants is weakening the group’s hold in Iraq and Syria even after Gulf Arab allies scaled back airstrikes, though ground forces are needed to retake territory, senior U.S. Air Force officials said.
The coalition’s air campaign has killed thousands of fighters, including key leaders, and pushed back militants by hitting control and training centers as well as equipment and storage areas, U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told reporters Tuesday. Occupying or governing land will require “boots on the ground” including the Iraqi army, Syrian opposition fighters and Kurdish forces, which the U.S. is trying to train and equip, she said.
"It’s going to take years" to fight Islamic State, James said at the Dubai Air Show. "Ultimately, this area requires a political solution as well."
The coalition has recently targeted Islamic State’s revenue sources, including oil facilities, Lieutenant General Charles Q. Brown Jr., commander of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command, told reporters at the air show. The U.S. has moved A10 jets from Kuwait and tankers from Qatar to Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base to help in the campaign, he said.
And more, from AFP:
"Ultimately it cannot occupy territory and very importantly it cannot govern territory," she told reporters at the Dubai Airshow.
"This is where we need to have boots on the ground. We do need to have ground forces in this campaign."
James cited the "Iraqi army, the Free Syrians and the Kurds" as forces to support in the fight against IS.
Ok so first - and we're not going to go into the whole story here because we've covered it exhaustively - these two things are not compatible and someone in The Pentagon needs to explain the contradiction:
- The U.S. has moved A10 jets from Kuwait and tankers from Qatar to Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base
- James cited the "Iraqi army, the Free Syrians and the Kurds"
You can't fly from Incirlik in support of troops fighting with the Kurds. It won't work. Erdogan will lose his mind. Someone in Washington needs to explain why the US thinks that's feasible.
But more importantly, note that James mentions "occupying [and] governing territory."
Who said anything about "occupying and governing"? Does the US now intend to "occupy and govern" Syria even as the Russians and Iranians expand their campaign?
Finally, what's this about "years"?
It seems to us that James is saying the US needs to invade Syria in an Iraq-style takeover bid. We're that will go splendidly, but again the silver lining is that starting World War III will be a boon for the MIC, which means the economy will rebound in short order.