U.S. Weighs Changes to Syria Policy as Training Effort Struggles

The United States is considering an overhaul of its intervention policy in Syria. The U.S. effort to train and equip moderate rebels has produced only “four or five” troops still in combat in Syria, according to Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, who spoke yesterday at a Senate hearing. Potential changes ...

GettyImages-488503424
GettyImages-488503424

The United States is considering an overhaul of its intervention policy in Syria. The U.S. effort to train and equip moderate rebels has produced only “four or five” troops still in combat in Syria, according to Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, who spoke yesterday at a Senate hearing. Potential changes to the program could include lowering the number of trainees each year and embedding them with existing rebels as interlocutors for the U.S. military, as opposed to training whole independent units, defense officials told the Washington Post.

Gen. Austin also commented yesterday on the recent buildup of Russian forces in Syria. “What they've stated is that they want to focus on helping to counter ISIL as I understand it. That's left to be seen. As you know, Russia is not very transparent and so we really don’t know what their true intentions are,” he said. Some analysts believe the recent delivery of new weapons is part of a Russian effort to try to shift its engagement with the West on Syria, the New York Times reports. Syrian military officials said the new Russian weapons systems are being integrated into their war effort and praised their effectiveness and precision, but did not specify what the new weapons are.

Two Deadly Bombings in Baghdad

The United States is considering an overhaul of its intervention policy in Syria. The U.S. effort to train and equip moderate rebels has produced only “four or five” troops still in combat in Syria, according to Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, who spoke yesterday at a Senate hearing. Potential changes to the program could include lowering the number of trainees each year and embedding them with existing rebels as interlocutors for the U.S. military, as opposed to training whole independent units, defense officials told the Washington Post.

Gen. Austin also commented yesterday on the recent buildup of Russian forces in Syria. “What they’ve stated is that they want to focus on helping to counter ISIL as I understand it. That’s left to be seen. As you know, Russia is not very transparent and so we really don’t know what their true intentions are,” he said. Some analysts believe the recent delivery of new weapons is part of a Russian effort to try to shift its engagement with the West on Syria, the New York Times reports. Syrian military officials said the new Russian weapons systems are being integrated into their war effort and praised their effectiveness and precision, but did not specify what the new weapons are.

Two Deadly Bombings in Baghdad

Two suicide bombers detonated bombs at police checkpoints in Baghdad this morning, killing at least 14 people and wounding another 33. The terrorists, who are believed to have been affiliated with the Islamic State, approached the checkpoints on foot, targeting locations near commercial districts.

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Headlines

  • Egyptian officials have issued a gag order restricting all reporting on the military’s attack on a group of Mexican tourists on Sunday.

 

  • Houthi forces in Yemen claim to have captured several Saudi soldiers, showing one in a television broadcast.

 

  • Police in Riyadh arrested two men and are conducting a manhunt for two others after a raid and a shootout; the men may be affiliated with the Islamic State.

 

  • The U.N. High Commission for Refugees is facing criticism from a U.N. Commission of Inquiry for its inability to galvanize countries to respond faster and more forcefully to the Syrian refugee crisis.

 

  • The United States announced it would provide an additional $89 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen, bringing its contribution for this fiscal year to $170 million.

Arguments and Analysis

One in five Syrians say Islamic State is a good thing, poll says” (Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post)

“The majority of Syrians interviewed said they believe that the situation is worsening, and only 21 percent said they preferred their life today than when Syria was fully controlled by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Nearly half of Syrians surveyed said they opposed U.S.-coalition airstrikes, and nearly 80 percent said that the war has gotten worse because of the influx of foreign fighters.  Yet there is also sense of hope: The majority of Syrians surveyed said a diplomatic solution was possible to end the war, and that Syrians can set aside their difference and live side by side again.”

 

Why the Best War Reporter in a Generation Had to Suddenly Stop” (Mark Warren, Esquire)

“At home in Rhode Island, Chivers keeps a piece of the bomb that almost killed him on the wall of the office off the garage where he writes. It was a GBU-12, stamped with for use on mk82. That incident was extremely valuable, he says. An aircraft, a pilot, put a guided munition very near to me on a piece of ground where I was standing that was unquestionably out of the Qaddafi forces’ hands, and then proceeded to brief the strike publicly as if it was a valid strike. They said things that were not true. They may have believed them. Either way, it’s a problem, right? It shows that they don’t know what they’re bombing in many instances, and they convince themselves that they do, which is an incredibly dangerous use of lethal power. And it just was extremely useful to see that and consider other things they may be saying to you on one story or another. Because there’s no question to me about what happened.

-J. Dana Stuster

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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