By David Maxwell
The Obama administration did not allow the U.S. military to conduct a proper unconventional warfare campaign, making the failure of Washington’s favored Syrian rebels inevitable.
All public signs point to failure in a key U.S. effort to turn the tide of the brutal Syrian civil war — the training and fielding of a vetted and politically palatable Syrian force to fight the Islamic State. As Nancy Youssef reveals in The Daily Beast, exasperated U.S. officials are trying to adapt in the wake of disastrous setbacks for the Syrian forces back by the United States, including the New Syrian Army and Division 30. An initial contingent was beaten up badly by rival groups, including al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, not long after it was introduced back into the wild. Washington’s favored Syrians are now in disarray and in a public spat with the Pentagon over its mission.
This should lead us to ask, why can’t the United States conduct effective unconventional warfare any longer?
What is unconventional warfare? The Department of Defense defines it as “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power through and with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area.”
Recent examples of successful UW campaigns and supporting operations include Afghanistan in 2001 and Northern Iraq in 2003, in which the 5th and 10th Special Forces Groups conducted operations built on a foundation of long established relationships either through the intelligence community (Afghanistan) or directly between Special Forces and indigenous Kurdish elements (in Iraq dating back to 1991 and Operation Provide Comfort).
Read the Remainder at War on the Rocks