Last week, President Obama announced that he would be sending “less than 50 troops” to train moderate Syrian forces. The White House has stated that these troops would not be serving in combat positions, and would be training moderate forces such as Kurdish groups and the Syrian Arab Coalition. However, this move by President Obama could threaten the future of the Syrian state, and this action should be retracted.
By sending in any amount of troops into Syria, the US would be choosing allies that would not necessarily be beneficial. According to the New York Times, one of these forces would be Kurdish forces known as the YPG, a group that has dealt the hardest blows to ISIS.
However, this group is allied with the PKK, a terrorist group situated in Turkey and Northern Iraq. So not only would the US be training terrorists, but they would also be alienating key allies in the region, such as the Middle East. The other smaller groups in the alliance include Christian militias and Bedouin fighters, who were loyal to Muammar Gadhafi, the former leader of Libya.
The Kurds also have high political ambitions for an independent state, so if the United States backs the Kurds and installs them into power, other countries that have a large Kurdish minority would be threatened. For example, Iran, Turkey, Iraq and Syria have large Kurdish minorities.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has stated that, “I will never allow the establishment of a new state on our southern frontier in the north of Syria.”
Backing a political entity in Syria can also start a proxy war with Russia. Recently, Russia has initiated air strikes to combat terrorists. However, the airstrikes have killed 185 civilians, and 279 non-ISIS rebels, most of them probably Kurds.
Previous operations have also failed as well. Under Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. was planning on training 3,000 troops by the end of 2016, yet have only trained 60. According to Al-Jazeera, the leading commander, as well as some other troops, were captured in August.
Under the new “train and advise” stance taken by the U.S., an American has already been killed. Acting on a tip that ISIS-held hostages would be killed, U.S. and Kurdish forces were sent on a raid in which Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler was killed, the first American casualty in what looks like the beginning of a war with ISIS.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has said, “the military expects more raids of this kind,” and this may mean more Americans “will be in harm’s way, no question about it.”
Sending American troops into Syria as either advisers or soldiers would backfire for the U.S. The friendliest group in the region, the Kurds, will threaten one of our greatest allies in the region, Turkey, which has been crucial in the fight against ISIS. In addition, taking an active role in the conflict could further threaten a war against Russia.