Will US send 50,000 troops to Syria?

Alwaght– The US military deployment to Syria has been expanded persistently since Donald Trump swearing-in as US president. His predecessor President Barack Obama was against American forces dispatch to the war-hit country, however, he in 2015 finally agreed to send a limited numbers of American forces majorly to train the Kurdish fighters allied with Washington in the fight against the ISIS terrorist group. This number touched 500 by end of his presidency.

But the new president proved open to deploying forces to the war fronts. Holding obliteration of ISIS, at least ostensibly, as one of his campaign-time slogans, Trump immediately required the Pentagon and other military bodies to design a plan within 30 days destroy ISIS. February’s end was the deadline.

Then in early March, the Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who earlier raised the idea of boots on the Syrian ground, said that the White House decided to send further troops to the battlefields. Trump’s administration deployed to Syria additional 400 fresh troops, including dozens of Marines. Later this month, further 1,000 Marines were added to the already existing forces. This meant that short after Trump’s presidency, the American ground forces in Syria were doubled.

Their duty appears to be well-defined: offering logistical support to the advancing Syria Democratic Forces- a mainly Kurdish militia- and using heavy wares in the bloc’s ongoing fight to retake Raqqa- the capital of the self-proclaimed ISIS caliphate- from the terrorist group. But they are not supposed to directly engage in the battle, the statements say.

But this number appears to be open to debate. In past few days, news agencies quoted the government’s national security advisor Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, who has suggested sending 150,000 ground troops to Syria, as saying that Washington mulls deploying as many as 50,000 forces to the Syrian battlegrounds.

However, the analysts suggest that implementation of such a plan requires Trump administration to take into account a set of factors that can stand as hurdles ahead.

Russia opposition

Any time the US and in general the West made moves unilaterally or through United Nations Security Council’s authorization for military action to oust Syrian government, they saw ahead Russia’s significantly effective objection. Washington faced a tough stance from Moscow after it launched missile strikes on 7 April against the Homs province’s Shayrat airbase, Syria’s key site for launching anti-terror air raids. Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the military move severely damaged the Russian-American relations. Immediately after the strikes, Russia suspended air safety agreement with the US which meant to avoid collisions between Russian and American fighter jets operating over Syria.

Moreover, since the start of conflict in Syria, the US tried to garner the international support to establish a no-fly zone in the Arab country just like what happened to Libya. If realized, the plan can help offer air shield to opposition forces fighting the Syrian government’s army. But to date these struggles have met with failure largely because Washington failed to get Moscow siding with the idea.

So to send this big number of forces, the Americans also have to win the Russian approval, which is certainly unachievable. Or if they do not seek the Russian agreement, they might risk a direct confrontation with unpredictable consequences, something Trump does not like to face with. This was clear from his sending of the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Moscow only a couple of days after the Mediterranean-based cruisers carried out the anti-Syrian missile attacks.

Syria’s place in US West Asia policy

Still another factor preventing deployment of further American forces is Trump’s reluctance to have a long-term presence in Syria. To repair the heavily-frayed US-Russia ties that even went worse during the Obama administration, Trump seeks bowing to traditional Russian influence in Syria. Perhaps this was the main drive that his administration since the very first days in office announced that President Assad’s removal was not a priority.

Up to now, Trump has proven that his national security doctrine is mostly focused on East Asia and particularly China rather than West Asia. The new administration made it clear that now its West Asian strategy revolves predominately around expanded influence in Iraq in a bid to prevent further Iranian sway in the country and also in the whole region. Therefore, the case of increasing the troops to 50,000 in Syria looks in conflict with the US regional strategy.

Beside these major roadblocks ahead, establishing military bases in northern Syrian- Kobani, Rimlan, Al-Hasakah, Hol, Al-Hawl, Tell Abyad, Manbij, and Al-Shaddadah- dose not serves US strategic interests in the region as washington operates an airbase of its own in Turkey, a key ally and NATO member and Jordan, another neighbor of Syria, also hosts US forces in a military base. The same is true about the Israeli regime, leading US ally in the region.