Mission Creep Hits Syria Targeting, Training Before First Tomahawks Fly
Even while Barack Obama and John Kerry are busily lobbying for a positive vote in Congress for their Not-War in Syria, it appears the Defense Department isn’t waiting for a pesky thing like Congressional approval or even the official start (as opposed to already ongoing but covert) of US actions to begin their usual process of mission creep that is undoubtedly to be followed by cries of “Just six more months and victory will be ours!”. The mission creep on targeting threatens the propaganda push that so far has been centered on selling the action as limited. We have New York Times articles this morning stating that Israel goes along with the idea of limited strikes but definitely doesn’t want to go all the way to regime change where radical Sunni groups might seize power, while at the same time we have the Pentagon claiming they’ve been tasked with expanding the number of targets for the strike. From the latter:
President Obama has directed the Pentagon to develop an expanded list of potential targets in Syria in response to intelligence suggesting that the government of President Bashar al-Assad has been moving troops and equipment used to employ chemical weapons while Congress debates whether to authorize military action.
Mr. Obama, officials said, is now determined to put more emphasis on the “degrade” part of what the administration has said is the goal of a military strike against Syria — to “deter and degrade” Mr. Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons. That means expanding beyond the 50 or so major sites that were part of the original target list developed with French forces before Mr. Obama delayed action on Saturday to seek Congressional approval of his plan.
For the first time, the administration is talking about using American and French aircraft to conduct strikes on specific targets, in addition to ship-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles. There is a renewed push to get other NATO forces involved.
See? It’s the fault of all those dirty hippies insisting on following an old piece of paper and forcing the President to get a permission slip from Congress before taking action. That delay is why we have to expand the number of targets.
We are left to ponder just how it will be possible to magically target and kill Syrian forces tasked with moving chemical weapons around without actually hitting those weapons–which the forces are in the process of hiding. What could possibly go wrong here?
But I want to focus more fully on this AP article. Marcy had just read it when she sent out this tweet:
Press coverage from the Chuck-Hagel-Says-It’s-Covert training that HAS BEEN GOING ON in Jordan being given real time machine treatment.
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) September 6, 2013
That, along with the title: “US officials: US considers training Syria rebels”, suggests that the article is an expansion of the effort I outlined earlier in the week, where Barack Obama is trying to change both the date and the size of the first CIA-trained death squads to enter Syria, most likely because they are somehow tied up either as targets of the chemical weapons attack or as perpetrators of a false flag operation.
Diving into the article, though, we see that this is about adding to the death squad training by expanding into a much larger operation where US troops are directly involved in training a large force (for the Afghanistan analogy, this proposal is to move beyond the CIA training Afghan Local Police–the militias who become death squads–for our military to train the actual Afghan National Army, which is about ten times larger):
The Obama administration is considering a plan to use U.S. military trainers to help increase the capabilities of the Syrian rebels, in a move that would greatly expand the current CIA training being done quietly in Jordan, U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Gosh, where have we done that before? I have probably written at least fifty posts on the multiple failures we have seen from US efforts to train troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of these failures trace directly to David Petraeus, who built much of his career on false claims of training successes. The ongoing quagmires in both countries are testament to the abject failure to produce fighting forces in the US mold.
Misinformation is scattered throughout the AP article:
The CIA has been training select groups of rebels in Jordan on the use of communications equipment and some weapons provided by Gulf states. The new discussions center on whether the U.S. military should take over the mission so that hundreds or thousands can be trained, rather than just dozens.
Recall that earlier this week, I cited information from the Jerusalem Post that the first death squad group, which entered Syria on August 17, totaled 300 and that another group entered two days later. We already are at hundreds trained. This proposal almost certainly is aimed at training tens or hundreds of thousands of troops, nor hundreds or thousands. Discussing the expected force size is pointless, though, because DoD routinely lies about force size from training.
Oh, and one point is completely overlooked in the AP article and the announced plans. Nobody seems to notice that Syria is not Afghanistan, where the country has been at war for decades and the infrastructure has been totally wiped out. If these are Syrians we are talking about training and if they are approaching the age of 20 or older, they already have been trained. From the CIA’s website, we see this about mandatory military service in Syria:
18 years of age for compulsory and voluntary military service; conscript service obligation is 18 months; women are not conscripted but may volunteer to serve; re-enlistment obligation 5 years, with retirement after 15 years or age 40 (enlisted) or 20 years or age 45 (NCOs) (2012)
Syrian males who reach the age of 18 must spend a year and a half in the military. So if we need to train fighters for Syria, are we training women who didn’t volunteer, child soldiers or people who aren’t Syrian? [I owe a hat-tip to someone on Twitter who I saw mention the obligatory military service in Syria, but can’t remember who said it.] Not to worry, though, our military will “screen” those they are about to train:
It would require getting approvals from the host country, finding appropriate locations, getting the right number of personnel in place to conduct the training and setting up a vetting system to insure that instruction was not provided to any rebel groups that may not be friendly to the U.S.
Never mind that the Afghanistan experience has taught us that training provides opportunities for green on blue killings and that screening is so difficult that it can be necessary a second time. I’m sure this will work out perfectly this time. Maybe we can even put Petraeus back to work and give him the job of lying about how well this training is going.
One last note. See that post at the top of the page? Thank you so much for adding to the two million or so visitors we have had to emptywheel.net. Your support keeps the servers humming and Marcy’s weed-whacker in working order. Thank you in advance for whatever you can spare, even if it is only page clicks.
My understanding is that this training is taking place in Jordan- which makes me wonder why the Jordanian Foreign Minister was on TV saying that Jordan was totally neutral in this matter. I guess he was just kidding.
Did you see where China is now moving ships into the Mediterranean?
I still think if Assad retaliates it will be against these training camps in Jordan. Seems the most logical spot to me as it would be hard for the US to argue that it was Assad expanding the war when the US has publicly bragged about these camps. I’m not sure why the Jordanians are going along. I don’t see the benefit to them unless they’re getting big bucks from someone.
I not taking this one to the bank: Tony Blinken: No ‘intention’ to act without Congress – http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/blinken-no-intention-to-act-without-congress-96371.html?hp=r2
“Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said Friday of President Barack Obama that “it’s neither his desire nor intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him.”
@Betty: Or he’s already cashed his check.
Now wait just a minute.
EW, you say:
The only dirty hippie insisting on following an old piece of paper and forcing the President to get a permission slip from Congress was the President himself. Or have you (and the rest of the press) conveniently forgotten the shocked faces on the principals’ meeting when, after a Rose Garden walk with McDonough, the President directed that they would seek approval from Congress before striking?
And then, in doing so when it was clear it would be until September 9 before the Congress was back in session – Obama didn’t feel the imminence of war was such that he needed to call Congress back from their vacay, so he didn’t – and making his decision quite, quite public, Obama insured Assad would have at least 10 frickin days to move and hide all his CW.
All the fault for all the delay which will be relied upon to justify a wider target set or more death squads or whatever lies on one set of shoulders and only one: Barack Hussein Obama’s.
This is what he wanted. This is what he got. Now, someone apply Occam’s Razor to this and tell us all what he really wants, if not forever war to keep his MIC funders fat, happy and profitable.
I’m curious if the government and the major news outlets either don’t keep track of what they say or if they think we don’t pay attention/won’t remember what’s they’ve said (I suspect its both), but the fact that we’ve been (covertly) training rebels since last year was reported at least as early as February:
Both articles point out that’s it’s ‘known’ but not officially confirmed.
We’re vetting our intrepid freedom fighters, and as Jim stated what can go wrong. Our vetting is so good that only the occasional jihadist will slip through, and so what that an asshole that Assad is—according to a May NATO poll, only 10% of the population support the insurrection, while 70% support Assad. But Johnny boy says the US will bring democracy to Syria, whether they want it, asked for it, can make the parties and government non-sectarian and run a democracy or not. Fuck the rag heads, we know best.
@scribe: That was me and not Marcy who said it. But my position is that Obama wouldn’t have made his surprising decision had he not heard all of us hippies and how we are even teaming up with the Tea Partiers to insist that we not get involved and that involvement without Congressional approval would be an impeachable offense. Because an old sheet of paper says so. And yeah, the article says Obama told DoD to expand targets, but it is also just so in line with what DoD does anyway that I wouldn’t be surprised if they told him he needed to tell them to do it. Violation of Occam here, but I think it is based on a solid record.
The French had a name for the U.S. “Vietnamization” program in which I served for eighteen months (July 1970- January 72): “Yellowing the Corpses.” So I’ve got a name for the various U.S. Iraqification, Afghanization, and Al-Qaedaization training programs in the Middle East: “Browning the Bodies.”
And I still can’t see where the existing A.U.M.F. declaring Al-Qaeda and its affiliates our “enemy” (for over a decade) squares with providing material aid and comfort to Al-Qaeda in Libya and Syria. It seems to me that the Constitution makes it abundantly clear what that kind of conduct constitutes: namely, “treason.” Literally. By definition. So now President Obama wants to make literal treason the policy of the United States Government? Something tells me that the “worthless scrap of paper” (or “parchment provision”) just lost whatever residual value it might once have had. Can’t anyone in the U.S. government even read simple English?
Yes. I know (anticipating the Orwellian rebuttal): “In Oceania there is no law. Oceania has always been at war with Al Qaeda. Oceania has never been an ally of Al Qaeda.” Almost 60 years longer than Orwell thought it would take us to get here, but it appears we may have finally made it to 1984.
FYI this phrase was used so often about both Iraq and Afghanistan by a particular columnist that it got named: the Friedman.