Trump Deploys US Troops to Syria for War on ISIS, Offloads Russia and Turkey

The first US troops landed in Syria Tuesday night, March 7, when Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Russian Chief of Staff, and Gen. Hulusi Akar, Turkish army chief, were sitting together for the first time in next-door Turkish Antalya.
Elements of the 25th Rangers Regiment, spearhead of the forthcoming offensive to liberate Raqqa from the Islamic State, flew in from Fort Lewis air base, Washington, to the US air facility in Rmeilan, near the Syrian Kurdish town of Hasaka. They were equipped with light Stryker tanks. More tanks and heavy equipment reached the base overland from Iraqi Kurdistan.
Coming in from Iraq was the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, part of an artillery battery with M777 Howitzers for firing 155-mm shells. The Marine unit’s ground force consists of the Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines for manning the guns and providing fire support for the local forces assigned to the assault on Raqqa. Additional infantrymen from this unit are available to provide security.
Gen. Dunford did not need to explain to the Russian and Turkish generals what had happened. It was obvious that President Donald Trump had jumped the gun on Moscow and Ankara. At one stroke, he had knocked over all seven question marks hanging over his administration’s Middle East orientation.
1. The United States had decided to come down heavily on direct military intervention in the Syrian conflict.
2. A US army vanguard was already in place in advance of a larger influx of troops.
3. America was ready to go to war on the Islamic State terrorists without the standard wrapping of a “coalition” and only a competent local force.
4. The local force chosen for the Raqqa operation is the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Force, an alliance of 45,000 Syrian Kurdish fighters of the YPG militia, which has proven its prowess in combat against ISIS, and 10,000 members of the Arab Shammar tribe of northern Syria.
American officers on the ground are working without pause to raise the proportion of tribesman taking part in the operation to one-third compared with two-thirds Kurds.
5. Neither Russia, nor Syria or Turkey received invitations for their armies to join the US Raqqa offensive. Therefore, Vladimir Putin, Bashar Assad and Tayyip Edrogan are cut out of any say in the American military operation.
The armored marine convoy, which was sent from Rmeilan Monday, March 6, to close in on the disputed Syrian town of Manbij and face Russian and Turkish troops, was the first intimation of President Trump’s decision to jump into Syria with both feet.
The prominently posted images of US tanks flying the Stars and Stripes and the Pentagon spokesman’s description of “deliberate action,” posted a keep-out marker for the Russian and Turkish forces at the scene.
6. Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin had secretly agreed last year to divide Syria between them into spheres of influence, with the Russians ruling the area west of the Euphrates and the Americans keeping to the eastern bank. This week, the US armored convoy reached an American finger into the western area as far as Manbij. (See attached map.)
7. Gen. Dunford notified his Russian and Turkish colleagues that the American army’s first mission in Syria was to capture the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, following which the troops would make for the Deir ez-Zour province and undertake the task of cleansing northern and eastern Syria of Islamist concentrations.
According to our sources, Gen. Gerasimov received instructions from the Kremlin to welcome the American move, adding that the Russian commanders on hand in Syria were under orders to extend assistance to the US army if it was requested.
In complete contrast, Gen. Akar was told by President Erdogan to express strong objections to the American plan and raise his voice in particular against the Kurdish-led SDF’s integration in the Raqqa operation.
The Turks were not content with angry words. US Air Force jets preparing to take off from the southern Turkish Incirlik air base were slowed by official red tape over the necessary permits. The air crews picked up rumors that Erdogan was about to cancel permission for the US warplanes to use the base.
As another deterrent for Washington, Ankara ordered the immediate shutdown in Turkey of the Oregon-based Mercy Corps, one of the largest American humanitarian organizations delivering aid to Syria. This order ended the delivery of regular assistance to hundreds of thousands of besieged Syrian civilians and refugees trapped by the fighting.
However, President Trump let Ankara know through intelligence channels that he would not be swayed from his decision to launch US military intervention in Syria without Turkey. It was final.

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