Back in 1987 a reporter interviewed Mike Tyson about his upcoming fight with Evander Holyfield. The reporter asked Mike if he was worried about Evander and his fight plan. Mike famously replied,”Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” That thought came to mind when I read the latest plan articulated by a Pentagon spokesman for our military forces in eastern Syria.
“WASHINGTON—The Pentagon plans to keep some U.S. forces in Syria indefinitely, even after a war against the Islamic State extremist group formally ends, to take part in what it describes as ongoing counterterrorism operations, officials said. There are approximately 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, along with an unspecified number of contractors supporting them. Last month, the U.S. military withdrew 400 Marines from Syria, which U.S. forces first entered in the fall of 2016.
Officials earlier this week disclosed the plans for an open-ended commitment, known as a “conditions-based” presence. That is the same approach the Trump administration is taking in Afghanistan. “The United States will sustain a conditions-based military presence in Syria to combat the threat of terrorist-led uncertainty, prevent the resurgence of ISIS, and to stabilize liberated areas,” Army Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Wednesday.
U.S. defense officials stressed there would be no large, permanent bases in Syria of the kind the U.S. maintains in places like Germany and South Korea. Instead, troops will be assigned to smaller bases and outposts. In some instances, troops will deploy temporarily from other bases in the region for specific missions, one of the defense officials said. It isn’t clear how many forces would stay in the country.
The Pentagon has said the forces will target parts of Syria that aren’t fully governed by either regime or rebel forces. The military says it has the legal authority to remain there. “Operating under recognized international authorities, the U.S. military will continue to support local partner forces in Syria to stabilize liberated territory,” Col. Manning said.” (WSJ)
This “conditions based” presence sounds like a new way of saying we plan on staying in Syria indefinitely just like we plan on staying in Afghanistan and Iraq indefinitely… or at least until we get punched in the mouth. Not much of a plan as far as I'm concerned.
Not long ago CIA Director Pompeo sent a secret letter to the IRGC’s General Soleimani reportedly to warn him not to attack US or Coalition forces in Syria or Iraq. Soleimani did not open the letter. It’s existence was reported by Press TV. Soleimani later sent his own not so secret message to the CJTF-OIR Commander.
“Brigadier General Haj Qassem Soleimani sent a verbal letter, via Russia, to the head of the US forces commander in Syria, advising him to pull out all US forces to the last soldier “or the doors of hell will open up”.
“My message to the US military command: when the battle against ISIS (the Islamic State group) will end, no American soldier will be tolerated in Syria. I advise you to leave by your own will or you will be forced to it”, said Soleimani to a Russian officer. Soleimani asked the Russian responsible to expose the Iranian intentions towards the US: that they will be considered as forces of occupation if these decide to stay in north-east Syria where Kurds and Arab tribes cohabit together.” (Elijah J. Magnier)
To add to the CJTF-OIR Commander’s concerns, the leader of an Iraqi PMU militia, Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba, declared that “Trump’s stupid decision” to hand Jerusalem to the Israelis is “a legitimate reason to target American forces.” In Aleppo the Liwa al-Quds Brigade rallied in protest to Trump’s decision on Jerusalem. As the full reaction to Trump’s decision develops, our forces will end up surrounded by hostiles with no friends in sight. As Magnier surmises, Trump may be setting our troops up for a repeat of the events of 1983 Beirut. Now that would be a punch in the mouth.