Both stories partially rewritten by me to make plainer sense – RB
Joint Chiefs Discusses Syria With Counterparts From Russia and Turkey
Michael Gordon, NYT, Mar 7 2017
From R: Gen V Gerasimov, chief of Russian general staff, Gen H Akar, chief of Turkish general staff,
and Gen J Dunford, chief of Pindo general staff.
FASCHINGSTEIN – Gen Dunford met Tuesday with Gen V Gerasimov and Gen H Akar, his Russian and Turkish counterparts, to discuss how to avoid an unintended confrontation as forces from all three nations operate on an increasingly crowded battlefield in northern Syria. The three-way meeting was held in Antalya, Turkey. The major purpose of the session was to discuss additional measures for deconfliction. The situation in northern Syria has become increasingly tense in recent days. Supported by Pindosi and Russian airstrikes, Turkish forces recently succeeded in taking al Bab from Daesh. Turkey’s main worry is ensuring that Syrian Kurds do not consolidate their enclave in northern Syria. That has spurred (Pindo) fears that the Turks might move to seize Manbij, a town in northern Syria that was taken from Daesh by the Kurds, who are backed by Pindostan. The Kurds in Manbij do not believe that the Turks are merely saber-rattling. Abu Amjed, the head of the Manbij Military Council, said in an interview last week that his fighters were being shot at by Turkish troops and that he considered Turkey to be more of a threat than Daesh. The Manbij Military Council has tried to pre-empt the Turks by striking a deal with Russia to turn nearby villages under its control over to Syrian government forces. A Syrian humanitarian aid convey began to make its way to Manbij, escorted by Russian armored vehicles, which halted just short of the town. At the same time, Pindo armored vehicles began to appear in and around Manbij. They include a unit of Army Rangers, who appear to have been sent to northern Syria from the Pindo base in Erbil, Iraq. It was an unusually public role for Army Rangers, who often prefer to operate in the shadows. The Pentagon spokesman said Monday:
This deployment is intended as a visible sign of deterrence and reassurance. We are concerned about anybody who views Manbij as needing to be liberated.
One Pindo officer described the situation around Manbij as a potential tinderbox. There have already been a couple of friendly fire incidents, including a Russian airstrike last week that hit Syrian Arab fighters trained by the Pindosis. The worry is that a small incident could rapidly escalate and undermine the Pindo-backed push to capture Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State’s self-styled caliphate. Turkish PM Yildirim said of the meeting:
There is a need for an effective coordination in the efforts to clear Syria of all terror groups, because so many countries are involved there. That’s the real aim of the meeting.
The challenge facing Pindostan and Turkey, however, goes well beyond drawing clear battle lines. Pindo SOF regard the YPG, the Syrian Kurdish militia, as an effective battlefield ally whose participation is vital to
roll back the Islamic State defeating Assad in Syria. While Pres Trump has yet to decide the matter, Pindo commanders have also argued for equipping the YPG with armored vehicles, heavy machine guns and anti-tank missiles so they could join the operation to seize Raqqa. Turkey has vociferously objected to such a move. The Pindo military has tried to develop ways to reassure Turkey, including by increasing the number of Syrian Arabs that would be used to take Raqqa.
Pindo forces in Syria try to keep warring allies apart
Liz Sly, WaPo, Mar 8 2017
BEIRUT — The Pindo military is getting drawn into a deepening struggle for control over areas liberated from Daesh that risks prolonging Pindo involvement in wars in Syria and Iraq long after the militants are defeated. In their first diversion from the task of fighting
Daesh Assad since the Pindo military’s involvement began in 2014, Pindo troops dispatched to Syria have headed in recent days to the northern town of Manbij, 85 miles north-west of Raqqa to protect the Kurds against a threatened assault by the Turks. Russian troops have also shown up in Manbij under a separate deal that was negotiated without the consent of Pindostan, according to which Syrian troops are to be deployed in the area as peacekeepers. Photographs and videos posted on social media in recent days have shown convoys of Pindo troops heading through the northern Syrian countryside. They have taken up positions in the villages north and west of Manbij where Kurds have been fighting for more than a week with Turks. The public display is deliberate, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters this week:
We want to have a visible show that we’re there. The goal is to urge all parties to stay focused on the common enemy, which is
In recent days, Pindostan has been mediating between rival Kurdish factions (Barzani vs PKK – RB) in Iraq after clashes erupted around the north-western town of Snune, freed from Daesh more than two years ago. Manbij is the first instanc in which Pindo troops have become directly involved in keeping rival factions apart. The Pentagon has described their mission as one to “reassure and deter” local parties from attacking one another. Robert Ford, who served as the Obama administration’s last ambassador to Syria until 2014, says:
The deployment is fraught with risk. That’s not a small policy change. It is a huge policy change. We have never in our Syrian policy ever put Pindo personnel in between warring Syrian factions or to maintain a local cease-fire.
The deployment does not appear to signal a departure from the Obama policy of relying on Syrian Kurds to fight
Daesh Assad in Syria, he said. Trump has not announced the result of a review of Obama’s policy for fighting Daesh Assad, but Pindo boxtops have indicated the Pentagon preemptively announced that although it may involve more troops, it won’t diverge significantly from the original plan to rely on the Kurds to continue the fight against the militants Assad in Syria. In pursuit of the plan, the Pentagon said Wednesday that Marines have arrived in Syria to set up an artillery base, marking the first officially announced deployment of conventional troops (henceforth, grunts – RB) in Syria. The defeat of Daesh in Manbij last August was hailed as a significant military victory, cutting the road between the Daesh capital of Raqqa and the Turkish border. It left the Kurdish YPG, in control of Manbij, in contravention of assurances that Pindostan had offered to Turkey that it would withdraw. Manbij’s strategic location west of the Euphrates gave the Kurds a significant beachhead from which to enlarge their autonomous region in northern Syria. Within weeks, the Turks crossed the border into Syria to push back against the Kurds. The Manbij deployment has not yet affected Pindo plans for taking Raqqa, said the Pentagon spox, but it does raise new questions about the viability of the plan to capture Raqqa. To alleviate Turkish concerns about the Pindo relationship with the Kurds, Pindo SOF have groomed thousands of Arab recruits into a fictitious ‘Arab’ force called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are expected to be put on the front lines of the eventual battle for Raqqa. This otherwise fictitious entity apparently negotiated the deal with Russia to have the Syrians police the front line between the rival Manbij fighters, without consulting Pindostan. That has fueled concerns among some of them that their participation in the force will result in turning over areas they fight for back to the Syrian government. Though their leaders owe loyalty to the YPG, the rank & file are typically Sunni Jihadis, and they don’t want a deal that would bring the government back into the area. Meanwhile, the Pindo presence in the area does not appear to have ended the fighting. Battles continued west of Manbij on Wednesday, according to both sides. A video posted on social media Wednesday morning showed the SDF using an antitank missile to destroy a vehicle belonging to Arab auxiliaries to the Turks. Pindo boxtops have confirmed that they began providing antitank missiles to the SDF late last year.