Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts

24 January 2018

It’s No Longer About ISIS: US Government Is Moving the Goalposts By Changing the Rationale/Excuse for Keeping US Troops in Syria

Paul R. Pillar

Behind a façade of continuity, the deployment of U.S. armed forces in Syria for the purposes that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described in a speech [3] this week represents a departure from what such forces were originally sent to Syria to do. The Trump administration is having U.S. troops participate indefinitely in someone else’s civil war, for reasons that are quite different from the original stated objective of helping to quash the so-called caliphate of the Islamic State (ISIS). The new reasons do not stand up to scrutiny in terms of defending any threatened U.S. interests. The administration has in effect made a decision to immerse the United States in yet another foreign war.

15 January 2018

Russian military shows drones it says came from Syria raid

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Thursday displayed a pair of drones that it said were captured following attacks on two Russian military bases in Syria, saying the attack required know-how indicating it was carried out with outside assistance. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused outside powers he wouldn’t name of staging the attack to derail a deal between Russia, Turkey and Iran that is intended to reduce hostilities in Syria. The Russian Defense Ministry said Saturday’s raid on the Hemeimeem air base in the province of Lattakia and Russia’s naval facility in the port of Tartus involved 13 drones. It said seven were downed by air defense systems and the remaining six were forced to land by Russian electronic warfare units. Of the latter, three exploded when they hit the ground and three more were captured intact, the ministry said.

12 January 2018

Who is attacking Russia’s bases in Syria? A new mystery emerges in the war.

By Liz Sly

BEIRUT — A series of mysterious attacks against the main Russian military base in Syria, including one conducted by a swarm of armed miniature drones, has exposed Russia's continued vulnerability in the country despite recent claims of victory by President Vladimir Putin.

The attacks have also spurred a flurry of questions over who may be responsible for what amounts to the biggest military challenge yet to Russia's role in Syria, just when Moscow is seeking to wind its presence down.

10 January 2018

How $650 drones are creating problems in Iraq and Syria

By: Mark Pomerleau 

Top U.S. defense officials have long stressed that the nation’s air superiority is at risk as other countries build rival state-of-the-art planes. But now U.S. forces face another significant challenge in Iraq and Syria: inexpensive, commercially available drones. For the first time in nearly 65 years, U.S. ground forces are under attack from enemy aircraft, primarily small quadcopters or drones that cost about $650.“Our ground forces have not come under attack from enemy aircraft since the Korean War 65 years ago,” the Air Force said in a video presented during an event hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies Jan. 4.

8 January 2018

In Syria, an Attack on Russia’s Narrative

By Jacob L. Shapiro

It has been less than a month since President Vladimir Putin declared a successful end to Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war and announced the imminent withdrawal of Russian forces from the country. Not even a fortnight later, Islamist militants conducted a deadly mortar attack against Russian forces in Syria. The Syrian civil war is not over, and it won’t be anytime soon. The short-term damage to Russia’s public relations campaign is acute. But far more important is whether Russia is getting dragged into its very own Middle Eastern morass, and what this means for the various forces competing for power in Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) toasts with Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu at a reception for military servicemen who took part in Syrian campaign at Grand Kremlin Palace on Dec. 28, 2017, in Moscow, Russia. 

2 January 2018

Russian-Speaking Foreign Fighters in Iraq and Syria

Together, Russia and the countries of post-Soviet Central Asia have seen more of their citizens and residents travel to Syria and Iraq as foreign fighters than have any other parts of the world. Although numbers vary from source to source, roughly 8,500 individuals from these six countries1 have traveled to join a host of Salafi-jihadi factions—most predominantly the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS).2 Among these individuals are many militants from Russia’s north Caucuses, some of whom bring with them experience in asymmetric and insurgent warfare learned from their involvement in the first and second Chechen wars of independence and the insurgency that has torn apart the North Caucasus region since those wars. These battle-hardened and competent fighters serve important roles within ISIS and Al Qaeda as bombmakers, propagandists, and field commanders. They are joined by Russian speakers who quickly build that experience in combat in Syria, sometimes in groups dominated by North Caucasian and Central Asian leaders and members.3 

28 December 2017

Putin’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ Moment in Syria

By Jacob L. Shapiro
The day was May 1, 2003. Spring was giving way to summer in San Diego, California, in whose waters sat the USS Abraham Lincoln en route to its home port in Washington state. The carrier had just returned from the Persian Gulf, where it had been deployed to support U.S. combat operations in Iraq. Less than two months after hostilities began, then-President George W. Bush would declare those operations over. It was political theater, plain and simple, and the Abraham was his stage. Behind the lectern from which he gave his speech hung a now-infamous banner that read, tersely, “Mission Accomplished.” Fifteen years later, U.S. troops are still in Iraq.

25 December 2017

AP Exclusive: Uighurs fighting in Syria take aim at China


The Associated PressFILE - In this file photo taken Sunday, July 5, 2015, Uighurs living in Turkey and Turkish supporters, chant slogans as they hold a Chinese flag before burning it during a protest near China's consulate in Istanbul, against what they call oppression by Chinese government to Muslim Uighurs in far-western Xinjiang region. Since 2013, thousands of Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority from western China, have traveled to Syria to train and fight alongside al-Qaida, playing key roles in several battles. 

Anger at China drives Uygurs to fight alongside al-Qaeda in Syrian war in preparation for revenge

That winter night in the Chinese city of Kashgar in 2009 set Ali on a path that ended in northern Syria where he picked up a Kalashnikov rifle under the black flag of jihad and dreamed of launching attacks against the Chinese rulers of his homeland.

Since 2013, thousands of Uygurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority from western China, have travelled to Syria to train with the Uygur militant group Turkestan Islamic Party and fight alongside al-Qaeda, playing key roles in several battles. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s troops are now clashing with Uygur fighters as the six-year conflict nears its endgame.

23 December 2017

Putin’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ Moment in Syria

By Jacob L. Shapiro

The day was May 1, 2003. Spring was giving way to summer in San Diego, California, in whose waters sat the USS Abraham Lincoln en route to its home port in Washington state. The carrier had just returned from the Persian Gulf, where it had been deployed to support U.S. combat operations in Iraq. Less than two months after hostilities began, then-President George W. Bush would declare those operations over. It was political theater, plain and simple, and the Abraham was his stage. Behind the lectern from which he gave his speech hung a now-infamous banner that read, tersely, “Mission Accomplished.” Fifteen years later, U.S. troops are still in Iraq.

20 December 2017

The Pentagon Is Secretly Engaging in ‘Mission Creep’ in Syria

Paul R. Pillar

The other day we learned [3] that there are four times more U.S. troops in Syria than any earlier official figure had acknowledged. The discrepancy did not get much public attention, perhaps because the numbers are small compared to some other U.S. military deployments: about 2,000 troops in Syria, with the earlier official figure being 500. The incomplete count evidently had omitted personnel on short-term assignments and some others performing sensitive missions. A Pentagon spokesman said that release of the newer, more complete figure is part of an effort by Secretary of Defense James Mattis to be more transparent.

19 December 2017

Putin's Plan for Syria

By Dmitri Trenin

After nearly seven years, the Syrian civil war is finally winding down, and the Middle East’s various powers are looking ahead to what comes next. On November 22, the leaders of Iran, Russia, and Turkey met in the Russian resort town of Sochi to discuss Syria’s future, and on November 28, the latest round of UN-sponsored talks between representatives of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition began in Geneva. Another round of talks in Sochi is planned for early next year.

15 December 2017

Amid Russian and Syrian Regime Triumphalism, Is the War in Syria Effectively Over?


The war in Syria is not over. However, a phase in this war is indeed behind us, the one dominated by the regime (with its Iranian and Shi‘a and Russian allies) and the armed non-jihadi opposition, in all its diversity and contradictions, which Russia dramatically weakened and isolated in its two-year intervention. The fragmented territory today, foreign military occupations, and conflicting political agendas might lead to new confrontations: In Idlib, where Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) is a potential target for different actors such as Russia, the United States, and local forces; in the north and northeast, where tensions between Turkey and Kurdish forces could escalate into armed conflict; and in the east, where the regime and pro-Iran militias on the one hand and Kurdish forces on the other might struggle for hegemony over large territories. This may be compounded in different parts of Syria by suicide bombings organized by defeated elements of the Islamic State, or by fighting around besieged opposition-held localities if the sieges are not lifted by the regime.

13 December 2017

Moving Westward: The Chinese Rebuilding of Syria

By Gideon Elazar

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: As the Syrian civil war enters its final stages, China appears determined to take on a central role in Syria’s reconstruction. One factor motivating China’s involvement is the presence of a large number of Uighur jihadists among the anti-government forces. Another is the “One Belt-One Road” initiative – a planned attempt to establish and control a modern day Silk Road connecting China, the Middle East, and Europe. The increasingly active role China is playing in Syria might mark a shift in the geostrategic reality of the region. 

9 December 2017

Why Syria Could Become the Black Hole of the Middle East

Daniel R. DePetris

Last week, representatives of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and members of the Syrian opposition met for the eighth time in Geneva for what UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura billed as the best opportunity the parties have had to discuss a political transition for the country. Unfortunately, there is very little—if anything—to talk about; both sides remain so attached to their absolutist demands and negotiating positions that even mild compromise on Syria’s political future is beyond reach.

8 December 2017

Pentagon Acknowledges 2,000 Troops in Syria

The Pentagon on Wednesday acknowledged that 2,000 American troops are on the ground in Syria, the first time the military has admitted that it deployed well more than the Obama-era limit of 503 troops. And it was recently even higher: The new number reflects the withdrawal of 400 Marines who had been providing artillery support to U.S.-backed Syrian rebels. The issue of just how many American troops are quietly deployed to conflict areas around the world has taken on a fresh urgency after the October ambush of U.S. forces in Niger that left four soldiers dead. Before the firefight, there had been no public acknowledgement that there were were 800 U.S. troops in the country, part of a growing U.S. presence battling Islamic extremists in Africa.

14 November 2017

Russia’s Unlikely Withdrawal from Syria

By Emil Avdaliani

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Moscow’s intervention in the Syrian civil war boosted the reputation of the Russian military, afforded it valuable training, and enhanced Moscow’s political clout in both the conflict zone itself and the Middle East more generally. With that said, Syria threatens to become a quagmire for Russia, and Moscow is looking for an exit. This will be difficult to pull off as Russia faces considerable geopolitical constraints.

12 November 2017

When Foreign Fighters Come Home And Bring Terrorism With Them

The threat posed by foreign fighters returning from Syria and Iraq has been the subject of a lot of discussion lately. Indeed, my news feed has been full of media reports about the danger to country X, country Y or the world in general. Some good studies have been produced on the topic, such as the one recently released by Richard Barrett of the Soufan Group.

But the concern about foreign fighters is not new. Indeed, in April 2014 I wrote a piece assessing the danger, and it has aged pretty well. Like then, I believe that returning foreign fighters pose a real threat, but it is being mitigated by several factors - the most significant of which is the fact that the world has become aware of them. But other elements can also help lessen the threat.

10 November 2017

The Messaging App Fueling Syria’s Insurgency

Source Link

In rebel-held Syria, access to the weapons you need to wage an insurgency are just a tap away thanks to an encrypted messaging app. The Islamic State may be in retreat, but other militants in Syria have been trading thousands of weapons in publicly accessible black markets hosted on Telegram, including dozens of U.S. military assault rifles and parts for the same kind of anti-tank missile systems distributed by the CIA to anti-Bashar al-Assad rebels. Foreign Policy conducted an exclusive investigation to determine the scale of these arms markets, and where the weapons that ended up on them originated.

1 November 2017

Dark Victory in Raqqa

By Luke Mogelson
Source Link

In August, in the living room of an abandoned house on the western outskirts of Raqqa, Syria, I met with Rojda Felat, one of four Kurdish commanders overseeing the campaign to wrest the city from the Islamic State, or isis. Wearing fatigues, a beaded head scarf, and turquoise socks, Felat sat cross-legged on the floor, eating a homemade meal that her mother had sent in a plastic container from Qamishli, four hours away, in the northeast of the country. In the kitchen, two young female fighters washed dishes and glanced surreptitiously at Felat with bright-eyed adoration. At forty years old, she affects a passive, stoic expression that transforms startlingly into one of unguarded felicity when she is amused—something that, while we spoke, happened often. She had reason to be in good spirits. Her forces had recently completed an encirclement of Raqqa, and victory appeared to be imminent.