Trump a man of his word on Syria: Bhadrakumar
A week after the Pentagon submitted its report to the White House on February 28 outlining a new strategy against terrorism, there are signs of a refreshing change of course in the US’ activities on the ground in Syria. It is extraordinary that President Donald Trump is proceeding on a novel track on Syria, according to his script, undeterred by the relentless assault on his citadel by recalcitrant groups of various persuasions in the Washington Beltway, especially the Russophobes and the Barack Obama era holdovers within the US establishment.
Trump, for sure, is proving to be a man of his words on Syria. Three things emerged in the past week. One, the US rejects its NATO ally Turkey’s pre-condition that it should cease the support for Syrian Kurds who are its allies in northern Syria. In fact, the US intends to wade deeper into the military operations in that region by beefing up the deployment of the Special Forces and stepping up arms deliveries to the Syrian Kurds, including deploying attack helicopters and artillery.
Two, Pentagon is concurring with the back-to-back deal reached by the Syrian Kurds with the government forces and Russia to jointly put a road block on the Turkish army’s plans to advance toward the strategic town of Manbij en route to the ISIS’ de facto capital, Raqqa.
This is turning out to be a curious joint enterprise with the US Special Forces having moved into Manbij town as a “visible sign of deterrence” (to quote Pentagon spokesman) against Turkey, while Russia is sending food and medical supply convoys to the town with the prior knowledge and coordination with Pentagon.
The US is indeed aware that the Russian convoy also brought “some armoured equipment” to Manbij. The Pentagon spokesman said on Friday, “We were aware of this. The Russian government has informed us of it as well. It has not changed anything we are doing.”
Three, stemming from the above stunning turn of events on the ground, clearly, the Trump administration seems to be edging away from the Obama administration’s overt and covert prioritization of the “regime change” agenda in Syria. Trump all along said he wanted the US military to train its sights exclusively on vanquishing the ISIS, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Now, we are, literally, witnessing this being implemented on the ground.
The “known unknown” here is as to when the US could turn to explicit cooperation with Russia on Syria, which is also something Trump has spoken about. Much depends on the space that Trump manages to create to push forward his independent foreign policies. To my mind, once the preparations begin for the daunting military operations to capture Raqqa, where the ISIS is well-ensconced, and when it transpires that a bloody drawn-out battle lies ahead, the US forces on the ground will need all the help they can get from like-minded quarters – Russia, in particular. Trump will count on Defence Secretary Gen. James Mattis to calibrate the shift.
The implications are going to be simply profound. For, if such cooperation is possible between the US and Russian militaries in Syria, what prevents a similar pooling of resources in Afghanistan as well? A curious US-China dalliance in Afghanistan recently sailed into view.
It is only through concerted US-Russia-China efforts on the ground alongside cooperation on the diplomatic and political turf that Afghanistan can be stabilized. Of course, this must be a spectre that is already haunting the Pakistani GHQ in Rawalpindi.
Read an insightful interview here by US Army Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely with Fox News (close to Trump’s circle) on what to expect in US-Russia relations. Interestingly, the general travelled to Moscow recently on Track 2 and had a “private meeting” with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (who also happens to be the Kremlin’s Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa.)