WASHINGTON – The United States is the development of a comprehensive training program for the local Kurdish and Arab guards in Syria, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East said, to help head off the “significant risk” of Islamic State fighters regrouping in the country. It is an effort that could lead to a longer period of the American and allied effort.
Army Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, said in a recent telephone interview with The Associated Press that the border-control training would reflect major combat operations in Syria to end the U.S.-led coalition is shifting the focus to the stabilisation of areas seized. Washington also wants to root out the remaining rebels in Syria.
Votel would not say exactly how many U.S. troops will remain in Syria, or for how long, but said that the American military campaign in Syria will remain consistent. He posed no imminent decline of the AMERICAN forces at the level of the ground in Syria, which is currently more than 2000.
The border security forces “will help prevent the resurgence of ISIS, and will help to control,” Votel said, adding that the training will take place in Syria. “We are doing well where it is needed.”
The training will include instruction in examination, screening, biometric scans, and other skills to help US backed Syrian troops to identify insurgents who might try to the border with Syria from neighboring countries. The USA is a discussion of the possible contributions of the coalition partners in Europe and the Arab world. They may be more willing to contribute troops, now the emphasis is on stabilisation and peacekeeping, not fighting.
The increased training could prove crucial for the restoration of public order in areas where it was driven, and on the protection of Syria’s turbulent and porous borders with Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Pockets of militants are entrenched in Syria’s border areas, so a campaign to eliminate them will be difficult. The U.S.-led coalition only controls a part of the Syrian border.
It can also ask questions about the shifting of the AMERICAN mission in Syria. President Donald Trump has made it clear that his priority is the defeat of foreign terrorist organizations, and not more amorphous efforts to build nations or to settle internal disputes in foreign countries. To plant a larger border force could mean a prolonged AMERICAN campaign in Syria at a time when the Trumpet administration has in practice no relationship with the nation’s government, and still talks about a political transition that would make the Syrian President Bashar Assad’s rule.
Assad’s government and its partners — including Russia and Iran — are separately trying to re-impose security in parts of the country in which they serve. They have fought, that the al-Qaeda-linked fighters and other more moderate rebel groups on the battlefield in the past year or so, but the sustainability of their success is unclear.
Votel pointed to the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declaration this month, was defeated in the east of Syria. A few days later, it took more than six villages in the area.
“You can’t just go and battle and drop a bunch of bombs and then step away from and think that the problem is solved,” said Votel. “This is a reminder of how resilient and capable the organisation is, and how we need to really make sure, when we’re done with these activities, we have done it very thoroughly.”
Such thinking seems to be the colors of the AMERICAN decisions on keeping troops in Syria.
The military does not want “unnecessary options, unnecessary presence on the ground, where we don’t need it,” Votel said. But he said changes will only occur when the conditions in Syria improve, and the local security forces can secure and retain control over their own villages and towns.
No one in the Trump administration has made a similar declaration of victory in Syria. Not only the national security and military leaders believe celebrations may be premature, but a claim of victory would also raise legal questions about the American military’s continued presence in Syria without the Assad government’s permission.
The emphasis on the permanent threat of the Islamic State fighters, the U.S.-led coalition can justify staying in Syria to give troops more time to improve the local forces, including those who are opposed to Assad. They can, in theory, will eventually serve as a deterrent for any Assad campaign to defeat all of his internal opponents, and promoting the US’ desired outcome: peace talks between the syrian government and the “moderate” rebels.
Votel said that no one in the U.S. government has tried to force such a victory statement.
“I don’t feel any pressure on this,” he said.