Washington D.C., (TFC)— Two major events occurred within days of one another inside Washington’s newly terraformed halls. First, ex-Defense Secretary Ash Carter confessed that more US fighters in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere won’t improve anything. Second, a massive airstrike was reported in Syria allegedly killing over 100 “al-Qaeda militants”.
Carter made two compelling arguments against large-scale infantry deployments to either embattled country. “If we were to take over the war in Syria and Iraq”, said Carter, Salt Lake Tribune reports, “in the near term it would be entirely by ourselves.”
Pointing out “there is no one else volunteering to do that”, Carter surmised “we could get past that”. Even if that happened, however, he pressed the importance of indigenous support. In short, US actions in-country could anger “people who are currently inclined to resist ISIL.” American intervention in these countries risks breeding anti-American sentiments. Thus, a petri dish festers with violent motivations and further destabilization.
Instead, Carter recommended clandestine operations, airstrikes, and use of native fighters. This was his last interview as defense secretary, exchanging the post with retired Marine General James Mattis. Among many things, Mattis is known for leading the bloody, and legally questionable, 2004 assault on Fallujah.
Carter also pointed out another interesting, abstract factor of Operation: Inherent Resolve. Shortly before he took office, American operations in Syria were limited, and Iraq appeared to be winding down. When Islamic State militants sprang out of Syria’s war, those operations began expanding. Bases were constructed, air campaigns increased, and troops began to return.
Those forces, rather than conventional military, were various special operations units. Among them lurked CIA projects, some of which weren’t in conjunction with the military. Those operations–for both special operations and CIA–included kill capture raids, airstrike targeting, and train-equip programs. As ISIS gained more ground, those operations continued growing. Under President Obama, black ops forces saw multiple surges in both Iraq and Syria.
“Even if you kill a guy”; said Carter, “you get his phone and you learn something about ISIL, more and more people come over and volunteer information”. This creates what the out-going defense secretary dubbed “a vicious circle”. “The more you do”, he warned, “the more you have an opportunity to do even more.” Shortly thereafter, the Obama administration conducted its “last airstrike”, killing over 100 in Syria.
–A hundred nameless bodies where the bombs hit–
According to the Telegraph, B-52 bombers, supported by drones, allegedly dropped 14 bombs in western Syria. Officials claim the target was an al-Qaeda training camp the Pentagon called “Shaykh Sulayman”. Pentagon spokespeople stated it had been active since 2013, claiming it’s glassing “discourages” hard line militants.
This, however, appears to be in direct contradiction of what Ash Carter advised just days before. Yes, airstrikes are an alternative to ground forces. However, their destructive volatility has the potential to touch civilians, and breed more motivation to fight.
What’s more, like a recent bloody raid in Syria, the victims are totally unidentified. Essentially, reporters and the public have to take the Pentagon’s word that these were militants in a training camp. It’s been previously demonstrated–in Yemen, for example–that such airstrikes aren’t always so surgical.
As part of the documentary Dirty Wars, Jeremy Scahill reported on an 2009 airstrike targeting a Yemeni. Following the airstrike, which obliterated dozens of men, women, and children, officials claimed they’d targeted an al-Qaeda training camp. The strike, rather than American, had officially been conducted by the Yemeni government. Oddly enough, even the country’s elite were unaware of an al-Qaeda presence before that airstrike.
During an interview with Scahill’s crew, villagers said “if they kill innocent children and call them al-Qaeda, then we are all al-Qaeda.” Not only that, but other, more vengeful villagers threatened to “shed their blood” fighting the American’s if this happened again. Today, the country is embroiled in an ongoing conflict absent when Scahill was in-country.
It’s these patterns which need an critical eye if one is to examine, or interpret their substance. What’s known proves that everything is various shades of grey. Ground-side events in Iraq, and especially Syria, are but murky echos when they finally disseminate to the public. The truths birthing these shockwaves are complicated, tangled schemes playing out in the dark.