How American Troops in Syria Remain Useful

(Defense One) Amb. William Roebuck - The U.S. still keeps troops in northeastern Syria, albeit about half as many as at the height of the fighting against ISIS. After the final ISIS surrender in March 2019, U.S. Special Forces shifted from combat support to training and other support for Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-led counter-terrorism operations. ISIS' leadership and command-and-control capabilities have been severely damaged, but the group has been slowly rebuilding in Syria. A small U.S. military presence is critical to maintain pressure on ISIS. If the U.S. were to withdraw, the low-intensity effort against ISIS would likely fall apart and, relatively quickly, ISIS would feel emboldened to intensify operations in Syria. A U.S. withdrawal might also encourage a new invasion of northeastern Syria by Turkey, which considers the SDF part of a broader Kurdish national security threat. Should Turkey invade, the SDF would likely collapse. It would certainly stop fighting ISIS. While SDF forces suffered some 10,000 deaths in the fight against ISIS, U.S. combat fatalities have been fewer than a dozen over a seven-year deployment. The tiny U.S. military footprint, and associated financial costs, are negligible, compared to the costs that the U.S. would incur if it were forced to take on a fully reconstituted ISIS. The writer, Executive Vice President of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington and former U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain, served as Deputy Special Envoy for the Global Coalition against ISIS.

2023-01-16 00:00:00

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