Many Questions About Syria Linger After Pentagon Press Meeting

Syria, (TFC)— A top US special operations general may have accidentally confessed the actual scale of the American presence in Syria. In a satellite video press conference, Army Maj. Gen. James B. Jarrard stated 4,000 troops are on the ground in the battered country. Not just over 500, as the Trump Administration previously insisted.

In fact, even Stars And Stripes noted how after uttering the number 4,000, Maj. Gen. Jarrard seemed to fumble in his words. Quickly, an apparent Pentagon spokesperson assigned to the meeting took over and reaffirmed the lower official number. Afterward, no official would confirm whether there was any truth to Jarrard’s number.

Operations throughout both Syria and Iraq have been coated in mystery since ISIS first arose. As conventional troops pulled out, they were replaced with SpecOps forces, intelligence operatives, and a slew of contractors. The war zones have evolved today to be information black holes where seemingly anything is possible. In Iraq, few believe the White House’s claims that around 5,000 are currently stationed there. Nor do many continue to buy the idea that American forces aren’t engaged in active ground battles in both countries.

Media outlets which sniffed out Major General Jarrard’s troop confession are also overlooking one thing. They’re so focused on the numbers for Syria being inaccurate, that they’re missing a similar event during Hurricane Harvey. President Trump both overcounted the number of troops deployed for disaster relief and undercounted those in Afghanistan. The unlikely coincidence sparked ire which was later drowned out by other stories.

Later on in the meeting, the Major General was asked about casualties the SDF took taking Raqqa back. What’s interesting is that Jarrard had “good SDF numbers”. No stutter, fumble, or Pentagon aid to interject in comparison to the question on US troop numbers.

Major General Jarrard also made other dubious claims concerning Syrian rebels which the US supports. During a recent liberation of an ISIS-held town, Syrian Defense Force fighters reputedly flew flags of the Kurdish PKK. Internationally the PKK, also known as the Kurdish Workers Party, is regarded as a terrorist group. One of those banners allegedly depicted PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, and was flown by Kurdish YPG attached to US-backed SDF.

Any support to the PKK, especially covert, would fly in the face of America’s standing in the war. Kurdish Workers Party fighters have engaged Turkish troops operating throughout zones stricken by war.

In a transcript of the meeting, Major General Jarrard does state the SDF is diverse and includes Kurd’s in it’s ranks. The military rep did, however, dance around a question which specifically referenced the flying of a PKK-affiliated banner. Backpeddling, the Major General said “I do not think you’re speaking about the formal press conference from SDF leaders and RCC leaders that declared the liberation of Raqqa. During that ceremony, I do not think there was any reference to any terrorist organization or terrorist leaders.”

Jarrard was also touchy when one reporter worked America’s oil interests into the framing of their question. When asked if the Assad Regime tried to take back an oil-rich SDF area would the US support them Jarrard said, “I’m sorry”.“I think the question is, if the Syrian regime comes to take back, or try to take back control of this area, will we continue to support the SDF.” In other words, he completely removed any mention of oil from the question. He also stated that although “deconfliction” in the air is possible with the Russian and Syrian governments, ground-side this is more difficult.

US and YPG officers in Syria, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Major General Jarrard’s press conference shines light on several key facets of the ongoing bloodshed in Syria. It hinted to evolution’s in the war, and possibly even foreshadowed future turns the conflict may take. More than anything else, however, it showed how much one must read in between the lines of answers.