US Army Rangers, assigned to the 2nd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment, prepare for extraction from their objective during Task Force Training on Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., Jan. 30, 2014 (Photo: US Army / Spc. Steven Hitchcock)
ISIS’ “Last Stand”
Donald Trump’s “secret plan” to destroy ISIS has come into the spot light as the U.S. make’s its biggest commitment of ground troops into the Syrian Civil war to date.
A battalion sized force of 500 U.S. Army Rangers supported by attack helicopters, artillery and armoured vehicles have deployed behind enemy lines into the heart of the self-declared caliphate. During the operation, the U.S. and It’s allies also flew in moderate rebel forces from the Syrian Democratic Forces as a part of the joint operation that seized a strategically placed Dam on the outskirts of the city, effectively cutting off ISIS’ last line of retreat from their final Syrian strong-hold of Raqqa.
Raqqa’s encirclement comes as the operation to liberate Mosul, ISIS’s last stronghold in Iraq, continues.
The fight to dislodge them from Mosul has been slow and costly, with large parts of the city being heavily fortified with trenches, tunnels and roadside bombs. Buildings have been wired to explode and fighting is street-to-street, making liberation, and ISIS’ fall, a painfully slow endeavour.
A similar fight is expected in Raqqa. Even when the final bastions of the terrorist group eliminated, the fight may be along way from over. Analysts and experts widely believe that the group will live on as an insurgency similar to that seen after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, raising the prospect of a long-term commitment of coalition troops, and instability, for years to come.
- Approximately 500 U.S. Army Rangers have deployed into Syria.
- The deployment strategically cuts off Raqqa – ISIS’ Syrian base, and capital of its crumbling caliphate.
- With Raqqa and their Iraqi capital of Mosul liberated, ISIS’ territory across Syria and Iraq will be eliminated.
- With the Syrian Civil War ending, Turkey, the Syrian Government, the Kurds, and the U.S. backed Coalition, are squaring up for the difficult prospect of putting the country back together afterwards.
“It takes a special breed of warrior to pull of an airborne operation or air assault behind enemy lines,” – Colonel Joe Scrocca, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve
The troops have seized a key strategic dam near Raqqa – ISIS’ Syrian capital as a part of Operation Inherent Resolve, a 68 nation mission to destroy ISIS. Under the command of the previous administration, this had mostly composed of joint air-strikes on ISIS’ positions in support of “moderate” rebel groups that were trained by the coalition.
The deployment of troops marks a clear departure from the Obama administration’s hesitance to commit American soldiers into the conflict. Last month, a company of Army Rangers was used to secure Manbij after it was wrestled from ISIS control for example, and there are indications that the Trump administration foresees the use of Special Forces and raiding units such as the Army Rangers as shock-troops in the coming liberation.
Posturing for the next war
The U.S. forces have been pictured with large American flags attached to their armoured vehicles and over their outposts. American troops are,in part, being used as human shields – to discourage Turkish forces as well as Russian backed Syrian government forces from attacking their Kurdish and Syrian Democratic Forces allies.
With the Civil War coming to a close, the challenge now lies in how a post-war Syria will be carved up. The Kurds have fought hard to carve out an autonomous region for themselves in the country’s north-east which Turkey has deployed forces against in bloody clashes to break up what they see as a base for Turkish-Kurdish terrorist groups such as the PKK.
U.S. trained and backed Syrian Democratic Forces will likely demand the fall of Syrian President Bashaar Al-Assad. Russia, which has directly contributed troops, weapons and supplies to prop up the regime, will not accept the loss of its close ally.
“The Elected commander in-chief, both the last administration, and the current administration, I think have a duty to protect the American people and what we stand for from this enemy” – Defense Secretary James Mathis told Congress.
An un-civil war
The offensive has scaled-up since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, who’s much vaunted “secret plan” to wipe out ISIS seems to be forming through a commitment of ground forces and increased resources to the 6 year old civil war. The prospect of another long-term entanglement of America’s armed forces in the middle-east is growing. This is in spite of Mr. Trump and his Defence Secretary James Mathis calling the 2003 invasion of Iraq “a mistake”.
The American public’s stomach for another long-term occupation remains to be seen. Direct action will ultimately place more U.S. lives at greater risk, and the loss of American lives in a war against ISIS will be a challenge for an administration which is under-siege from continuing public-relation blunders.
While their final bastions may fall, the fight against ISIS will be a long one even after the Caliphate crumbles.