FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Obama seeks to expand US aid to Syrian rebels
A few weeks ago the blog, DuffelBlog, carried a funny send up on the Obama administration’s foreign policy called Special Forces Soldier Excited To Train Men Who Will Try To Kill Him In Five Years. But if there has been one “war” this administration has been successful at waging it has been the war on parody.
As hard as it may be to believe, Barack Obama is asking Congress to appropriate money to arm rebels in Syria:
The Obama administration asked Congress on Thursday to authorize $500 million in direct U.S. military training and equipment for Syrian opposition fighters, a move that could significantly escalate U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war.
Money for the assistance, which would expand a CIA covert training program, is included in a $65.8 billion request for the Pentagon’s Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO.
The administration has said repeatedly in recent weeks that it was preparing additional assistance to vetted “moderate” opposition forces fighting both the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and extremists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), who have now spread their area of control across the Syrian border into Iraq.
The “vetted” Syrian opposition is famous for two things: not fighting and selling their stuff to al-Qaeda. The Washington Post studied this “vetted” group just last month in a story called Why are fighters leaving the Free Syrian Army? In addition to producing this neat chart:
But it goes on to point out what happens when you arm people and then don’t supervise them:
What about those who are disillusioned with the FSA, but still have high morale and a strong drive to continue the fight? Unless the FSA is committed to internal reforms, one option for these fighters is to shop for other groups to join. Islamist brigades are almost always the strongest alternatives, promising disaffected FSA fighters better treatment, organization and unit cohesion to entice them to leave the FSA. One rebel fighter we interviewed (“Abo Farouk”) is currently fighting for the FSA’s Abrar brigade as well as the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham, but is considering whether to leave both groups and fight instead with al-Nusra Front, which the United States has designated as a terrorist organization. His stated reasons for switching are almost entirely organizational rather than ideological – commanders of Islamist groups are mostly based in Syria (rather than Turkey) and are actively engaged with soldiers in the field. Though ideologically indifferent to the goals of the Islamists, some FSA fighters see the Islamists as a more effective organization for defeating Assad’s forces, and switch for strategic purposes. Although such fighters are a small fraction of those leaving the FSA, their numbers are growing.
Despite all facts to the contrary, the White House is arguing that this policy is a great idea:
The risk of U.S. weapons and ammunition falling into the wrong hands appears to have only heightened now that ISIL has strengthened. But Obama’s request to Congress on Thursday appeared to indicate that tackling the crumbling security situation in Syria and Iraq trumped those concerns.
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the military assistance “marks another step toward helping the Syrian people defend themselves against regime attacks, push back against the growing number of extremists like ISIL who find safe haven in the chaos, and take their future into their own hands by enhancing security and stability at local levels.”
Obama’s clownish policy in Syria has created a perfect storm of unforeseen consequences. It has brought us into direct opposition with both Russia and Iran. This is only important because in his usual clownish way, Obama has sought to use Russia as our interlocutor with Iran on the issue of nuclear weapons. The weapons we have funneled directly and indirectly to Syria have ended up in Iraq and armed Islamic extremists there and gone a long way towards giving al Qaeda a secure homeland in western Iraq and eastern Syria.
It doesn’t take a genius to see how this money is going to end up. Most of it will end up in the pockets of a thoroughly corrupt leadership cadre within the FSA. Some will arm and train fighters. Those fighters will desert and fight on behalf of various Islamic groups.
Funding the FSA is both dumb and dangerous, in short, it is a metaphor for US foreign policy under Obama. Congress should ignore this idiocy.