National Security

Broken Promises and Feckless Policy in Syria

Obama puts boots on the ground despite repeatedly saying he wouldn't.

Paul Albaugh · Apr. 26, 2016

On Monday, Barack Obama announced a change of plans for the U.S. military concerning operations in war torn Syria. With the quagmire of chaos and brutality that has ravaged Syria, Iraq and much of the Middle East, it seems as though Obama has come to the realization that airstrikes alone against Islamic State militants are just not working out as well as he expected. “Inherent Resolve,” notwithstanding.

Following visits to Britain and Saudi Arabia where “talks” were conducted about the Islamic State and terrorism, Obama wrapped up his trip in Germany where he announced that the United States will put an additional 250 special operations forces on the ground in Syria, bringing the total number to 300. It was the least he could do. Really.

Obama stated, “Given the success [of those 50 special operations troops already there], I’ve approved the deployment of up to 250 additional U.S. personnel … to keep up this momentum.” He emphasized that these additional forces will not be on the front lines, but that they will be acting in advisory roles and assisting Arab fighters and Kurdish militia on a plan to eventually take back the city of Raqqa, which is currently the “Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria.”

Whatever happened to Obama’s repeated promise not to put boots on the ground in Syria? You know, the promise he made 16 times. There are already as many as 5,000 pairs of boots on the ground in Iraq, and he promised that wouldn’t happen either. Was there another crossing of Obama’s phony red line or is it just better late than never? What gives?

As we have mentioned many times before, the rise of the Islamic State would not have happened if Obama had not acted so foolishly by withdrawing troops from Iraq in 2011. By choosing to reject George W. Bush’s strategy of reaching a Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government to secure our hard-won gains in the region, Obama opened the door for radical Islamic terrorists to fill the vacuum. Obama thought that if we left the region, the war would be over. His wishful thinking resulted in an enemy even more formidable and numerous than the previous one.

And it’s not just Islamic terrorists with whom we must contend on this battlefront. Vladimir Putin still has Russian military forces in Syria, propping up Bashar al-Assad and fighting U.S.-backed “moderates” instead of the Islamic State.

By all indications, Putin has no intention of leaving the region any time soon. Russia has agreed to uphold its end of the deal under a current cease-fire agreement, but The Wall Street Journal reports that Moscow has redeployed many of its forces, including artillery, to northern Syria and that Iranian troops are starting to move back into government controlled areas close to the front lines.

Further, Putin has also attempted to deceive the U.S. by changing his tactics. At first, many thought the withdrawal of Russian warplanes from the region was a sign that Putin had decided to leave. But with the arrival of Russian attack helicopters, Russian troops continuing to maintain an airbase and a port, and with pressure from Iran to stay, it’s likely that Putin is going to wait this out a little while longer.

As Michael Ledeen noted last month, “Putin knows time is running out on The Wonderful Thing That Happened in Washington (aka the Obama administration). So whatever he wants to get, now is the time.”

So we are left with a situation in Syria that could go from awful to much, much worse. We are fighting the Islamic State and providing weapons to a group of rebels to take down Assad, while Russia and Iran have teamed up to keep Assad in power. And don’t forget, Obama handed Iran a nuclear deal that has fueled the mullahs’ ambitions with $150 billion in sanctions relief, which of course has enabled Iran to make the moves it has made with Russia in Syria.

Meanwhile, we have an administration that simply doesn’t know what to do about Assad. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Assad a reformer. Then Obama said he had to go. And then current Secretary of State John Kerry said he can stay for now. This is not leadership, its madness. And with the announcement that more U.S. troops are going into Syria, it’s just a matter of time before tensions between the United States, Russia, Syria and Iran ramp up even more over the coming months.

In short, this isn’t so much about broken promises as it is about a feckless and disastrous foreign policy. No wonder the Pentagon can’t figure out what the commander in chief is doing.

May God bless and watch over our troops who are and will be sent into harm’s way.


After Obama announced his plan to send more U.S. troops to Syria, there was a surreal “boots on the ground” reality check for his reality-challenged State Department spokesman John Kirby – a political hack whose last disinformation gig was in his Admiral’s uniform at DoD. When asked by Associated Press reporter Matt Lee about Obama’s repeated assertion that he would not put more boots on the ground in Syria, Kirby categorically denied that Obama ever took that position.

Lee asked, “For months and months and months, the mantra from the president and everyone else in the administration has been ‘no boots on the ground,’ and now—” and before he could finish, Kirby cut him off, insisting, “No, that is not true. … It’s just not true, Matt. … That’s just not true. … I just flatly, absolutely, disagree with you.” Kirby then claimed Obama was not “saying one thing and then doing the other completely.” The complete exchange is painful to watch.

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