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Leading From Somewhere Way Behind in Syria

President Obama reluctantly put half a toe into the Syria conflict after dithering on the matter for years, with predictable results.

According to the Wall Street Journal, America’s backing for “moderate” rebels hasn’t resulted in much more, in the words of one rebel commander, than “a huge American flag planted on our backs.”

The moderate rebels aren’t getting the weapons they need and are defecting to the Islamists or al-Qaeda, dying, or just plain disappearing. It’s a circus, albeit one in which the ringmaster gets the performers killed.

From the piece:

Some weapons shipments were so small that commanders had to ration ammunition. One of the U.S.’s favorite trusted commanders got the equivalent of 16 bullets a month per fighter. Rebel leaders were told they had to hand over old antitank missile launchers to get new ones—and couldn’t get shells for captured tanks. When they appealed last summer for ammo to battle fighters linked to al Qaeda, the U.S. said no.

Moderate fighters control only a fraction of northern Syria, while Islamic State and al Qaeda’s official affiliate, the Nusra Front, have gained ground. Last fall, Nusra overran one trusted commander and seized another’s equipment.

Entire CIA-backed rebel units, including fighters numbering in the “low hundreds” who went through the training program, have changed sides by joining forces with Islamist brigades, quit the fight or gone missing. . . . Most CIA-backed fighters made $100 to $150 a month. Commanders made slightly more. Islamic State and Nusra often paid twice as much, making it harder for the trusted commanders to retain fighters.

“We walk around Syria with a huge American flag planted on our backs, but we don’t have enough AK-47s in our hands to protect ourselves,” a leader of the Hazzm Movement, among the most trusted of the trusted commanders, told U.S. lawmakers in a meeting after Nusra’s advances.

The CIA recently stopped offering help to all but a few trusted commanders in Syria. But the new mission also calls for building a rebel force to fight Islamic State, not the Assad regime, which will make it tougher for the Pentagon to attract rebel commanders to the program, some U.S. officials say.

“I think we’ve lost our window of opportunity,” says Robert Ford, the State Department’s ambassador to Syria from 2010 to 2014.

At least Obama is now pointing the effort away from Assad and toward ISIS. I once believed we should back certain rebels to try to eliminate a proven enemy, Assad, and influence the result of the revolution. But the time for that is long passed. Assad, unfortunately, can stay where he is. The priority is defeating our even worse enemy, the Islamists.

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9 Responses to Leading From Somewhere Way Behind in Syria

  1. President Dithers unstrikes again. He’ll wet a toe or two now and then, but he won’t jump in… After all, he did get that Peace Prize. As I have said before, he came to Washington to play golf and all he wants is to get the 18th hole and will delay and reject reality, even if he has to back up and play the back nine over and over again.

    • What I fear he has something more up his sleeves. Anyone with common sense would have handled this, and many other things much different, and better.

  2. He is such a failure. Instead of going after our enemies like Iran, Obama is trying to bring down Israel, sending five con artists of his to interfere with the Israeli elections. He said he wouldn’t meet with Bibi because of election protocol? And now he wants to control the election in Israel. What a liar. Isn’t this against the law. What is he, Obama the Teflon Don again?

    • I cannot remember the title of the person being sent over there. It was mentioned in the last thread. Another issue I have not seen mentioned on msm.

  3. Forget it he just can’t do anything right. Instead of going after our enemies like Iran, Obama is trying to bring down Israel, sending five con artists of his to interfere with the Israeli elections. He said he wouldn’t meet with Bibi because of election protocol? And now he wants to control the election in Israel. What a liar. Isn’t this against the law? What is he, Obama the Teflon Don? Surely, he shouldn’t be able to meddle with an Israeli election? Why doesn’t he show his anger at Iran, not our ally? He must be on drugs, could he be that wrongheaded? Whatever he does is always against the wrong people. He has a war with America, Republicans and now Israel? Impeach, IMPeach, What does he have to do to get impeached? Every day something evil!

  4. “Most CIA-backed fighters made $100 to $150 a month. Commanders made slightly more. Islamic State and Nusra often paid twice as much, making it harder for the trusted commanders to retain fighters.”

    Nice to see that these moderate Muslim fighters are men and women of integrity and that they would never sell out and fight for that evil ISIL for something as crass as money.