Small Wars Journal

Will There Be A “Great Raid” Into Syria?

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 3:37pm

Will There Be A “Great Raid” Into Syria?

Gary Anderson

If CNN sources are correct, Pentagon officials are contemplating advising the president to send conventional ground troops to Syria. There are some good reasons to do that; but if we do, it should be a short and decisive intervention with a clear goal. We don’t need another long-term occupation of another Muslim dominated country.

ISIS is unique among the world’s terror groups in that it has a standing army that is occupying major cities. Once that army is destroyed, ISIS becomes another band of terrorists on the run; we can live with that. The main sources of ISIS’s military power are located in Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria. After two and a half years, the Iraqi armed forces have finally gotten to a point where they can retake Mosul, but the ongoing battle has gone on for months. Civilian and Iraqi Army casualties continue to mount, but they will eventually succeed in taking the city and destroying ISIS as a conventional military threat to Iraq’s sovereignty. That leaves Raqqa, and the military situation in Syria is much different than Iraq.

In Syria, there is no conventional military force capable of taking on ISIS in a stand-up urban battle.  Without significant western help, Raqqa will remain a festering sore where ISIS can rebuild military capabilities and continue to be a sanctuary from which to launch terror attacks on the United States and its allies. At the present time, the United States is the only nation capable of projecting power to launch a major campaign to take Raqqa and finally annihilate ISIS as a conventional military threat in the region.

Only America is capable of liberating Raqqa without turning the struggle into the kind of Stalingrad-like slugging match that the Battle of Mosul has become. If the Russians thought they could do it, they would have tried. We have the ability to retake the city and destroy the standing ISIS army that is occupying it much more quickly than it will take the Iraqis to recapture Mosul; but, then, we should leave. Keeping a large conventional force in Syria is a recipe for disaster. If we have learned nothing else from the experiences in Lebanon, Somalia, and Iraq; it should be that foreign forces can solve immediate problems but they soon create another problem by their very presence.

What is needed in Syria is a punitive expedition aimed at a limited objective. This essentially a very large raid aimed at accomplishing a specific set of objectives. We Americans have a precedent in the 1916 expedition into Mexico against Poncho Villa. In many ways, Poncho Villa’s guerilla army was the ISIS of its day. Its depredations into the United States were unacceptable to President Wilson who authorized the expedition under Brigadier General John “Black Jack” Pershing. The force never captured Villa himself, but it destroyed his capability to threaten New Mexico and Texas. There was no intention of overthrowing the weak Mexican government or to solve the problems of what had virtually become a failed state. The Mexicans eventually came to short-term solutions to their own immediate problems once Villa’s combat power was eliminated as a conventional threat. Similarly, we will not likely capture or kill the would-be ISIS Caliph, al Baghdadi; that would be a bonus, but it should not be the stated mission of the expedition.

Whatever group the governance of the Raqqa area is turned over to is a political decision that should be made before forces are committed. We can certainly leave behind residual forces force to advise and assist whoever takes over with governance and police training, but we should avoid making our foreign presence a cause for a “national resistance” movement.

An expedition can have a clear end state. Liberating Raqqa and destroying ISIS’s capability to act as an occupying military force is an achievable and reasonably quantifiable goal. Fixing Syria is not something we should take aboard. If the Russians want to give a try post-ISIS Iraq, good on them.

Getting American public support for a limited mission expedition is doable. Most Americans understand that ISIS is a cancer, and that allowing it to have major sanctuaries generating revenue is a clear danger to the security of our population. What we have to avoid is the kind of mission creep that got us into trouble in Lebanon, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. We will not likely ever be able to destroy ISIS as an organization, but we can reduce it to an outlaw band on the run.

Categories: Syria - Islamic State - ISIS - ISIL - IS

About the Author(s)

Gary Anderson is a retired Marine Corps Colonel who has been a civilian advisor in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an adjunct professor at the George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs.


CNN as a source of intel on Syria is reckless at best and ISIS, I will refer to as the Islamic State, will continue to be a threat even if it is denied territory in Syria and Iraq.
Certainly can hurt the Islamic State but the Islamic State is extreme proponent of radical Islam that is indicative of Religious Inquisition, it is a direction fanatics with zeal are going to take with or without a "state". It is not terrorism or Jihad its Religious Inquisition. how have we forgotten what religious Inquisition is we once practiced in the West and Muslims refer to as Crusaders?
Diplomacy has failed. 8 years of diplomacy first has resulted in increasing body counts with world opinion and leadership largely responsible.
The Arab Spring became Islamist winter and the USA is still debating after the WTC 1993, and atrocities in Egypt they have sponsored, if the Muslim Brotherhood sponsors terrorism. Some sites will not even let me post because I raise the question and that is not permissible in Paradise.
The Morsi government a Muslim Brotherhood agency was raising a Mahdi Army in the Sinai, after the Coup Obama used the threat of denying the Egyptian Army Apaches and other military arms to fight Islamist extremists to pressure the Sisi's government from excluding the MB in the government (The Russians filled the void and got the right for Port of calls in Alexandria as a result.). The Mahdi Army has given way to an area strictly under the Islamic States surrogates control.
To suggest the Islamic State a titular head for extremism that is Inquisitional as opposed to Jihad suggests that denied access to oil revenues it will simply fold.
We now know, since Obama left office, that the Orlando shooting and the Fort Lauderdale terrorism was directly influenced by the Islamic State, terrorism today can be blogged.
A recent account by a reporter who went on line subscribing to Islamic State video releases describes in detail the influence it had on him.
We are largely blind and ignorant of the Inquisitional side of Islam because we are not allowed to criticize what goes in Islamic States.
We ignore religious police, Saudis arrests and searches for bloggers who blaspheme. Beheading witches, holding pastors in Iranian jails until the "convert" to the Islamic version of who Jesus is. And nearly 30,000 Christians murder because of their faith in the region.
To read the regressive lefts assessments you would think the US military is the problem and the west.
But we are not the civilization that excludes people from religious places and entire cities.
After 8 years of Obama I believe the USA military has too long subscribed, for good reasons, to submission in Islamic nations where we have served. And like it or not the generic sociological term for the transformation is "going native". Going native does not have to be as extreme an expression as Major Gant was held to. We are operating with blinders on to fit the former prevalent regressive liberal socialist view that as not overly sympathetic to Islam but submissive instead.

The second part is if we let the diplomats do the heavy lifting, and the military is still be blamed for their failures. For the last 8 years where Bush had succeeded they apologized and still apologize like getting rid of Hussein, that was bad idea. It is insane we have to apologize for getting rid of that monster.
I do agree with this authors assessment of the Russians being able to bite off Mosul. This Iraq Vet says why are we doing it AGAIN?
Obama's leadership was nothing to brag about or we wouldn't be there again.
Obama's coalition was nearly disastrous and has dragged out the battle to the greater suffering of the population. The Kurds were rolling, until the Turks objected to their entering the city. The Turks animosity not withstanding, they also claim to have if not territorial rights a right of influence over the city stemming from a treaty signed after WWI.
The real and most troubling aspect has been that attacks on LTG Flynns, clearly demonstrating regressive socialists who only advocate diplomatic solutions to every foreign problem, was working with the Russians to bring stability to the region sooner than later hinged on leveraging the Iranians out.
Today I learned, from a analysis not CNN, that a US armored Brigade is taking up positions to block the Chechen mercenaries Russia has deployed from making the battle even more difficult to mange. Assad's army has been reequipped with T-99 tanks in Division formations after receiving adequate training to operate in formations, it took over a year to bring the 4th Syrian Armored Division on line. What successful formation did the Obama administration ever invest in? He relied on "rebels". Iran's organizations like the 56th Special Forces Brigade took a beating the first time they went into Aleppo, today the 50-70,000 Shiite militias including terrorist groups like Hezballah and Pakistani formations forming the Syrian 5th Corps are a hardened battle force, to what end? The nascent President Trump administration tried to leverage Iranian influence out of Syria for greater cooperation with Russia and lesson the potential for more incendiary collusion between competing fanatical adversaries.

For the first time, last week, our military leaders met with Russian military leaders. No they are not communists and I know that saddens American regressive liberal socialists like Bernie Sanders in the Putin era, sorry.
But I would tell anyone if you are getting your intel from CNN you might as well wear a sign that says "going native submissive to Tehran, and its regional interests".

Outlaw 09

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 7:10am

My 27 FEB posting has turned out to be very correct....there will be no "Great" raid as the US...Iran...Russia...ASSAD....Hezbollah a US named terror group...Afghan Shia militia and Iran ARE NOw being fully supported by US SOF and USAF CAS TOGETHER with the PKK (the US argument that they were supporting the Kurdish group YPG...was a fig leaf to cover their actual support for another US named terror group PKK).....

AGAINST the Syrian opposition and time Turkey will now pull the plug on the US airbase at Inclilik and Turkey will seriously question their NATO commitment as the US under BOTH Obama and Trump have not honored a single thing they told Erdogan........

PHOTOS of both US SOF with new armored vehicles and Russian troops in Manbij are posted on the Syrian thread as well as a photo of the Russian flag flying over Manbij...

USA now in an open alliance with Russia, Assad regime and PKK against Syrian opposition and Turkey?

Russian & American army now patrolling Manbij area,handing it to Assad & allied Kurdish militants.

So I was 100% right w/"tacit US approval"

Humvee column near #Manbij.
Not clear who rides them - #SDF / #YPG or #US troops.

So in the end which was better for Syria the Obama or Trump WH?????

Never thought I would see the USAF flying CAS for Iran...Russia and Hezbollah nor US SOF working together with US named terrorists...Hezbollah who has the blood of the US Embassy bombing in Beirut on their hands...

USA now in an open alliance with Russia, Assad regime and PKK against Syrian opposition and Turkey?

Russia &regime forces have entered #Syria's #Manbij as #US Army deploys armoured vehicles

Wow are they so afraid of #Turkey. Damn

McMaster on "raids:"


The second fallacy can be referred to as the ‘zero-dark-thirty fallacy’. Like the vampire fallacy, it elevates an important military capability, raiding, to the level of a defense strategy. The capability to conduct raids against networked terrorist organisations is portrayed as a substitute for rather than a compliment to conventional joint-force capabilities. Raids, because they are operations of short duration, limited purpose and planned withdrawal, are often unable to affect the human and political drivers of armed conflict or make progress toward achieving sustainable outcomes consistent with vital interests.


Outlaw 09

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 2:08pm

Reports of US soldiers and armoured vehicles deployed in Mabij near border lines with EuphratesShield and Assad Army NE Aleppo @Step_Agency

Turkey has in fact signalled to the US that the US MUST hold to their initial decision to have YPG pull out of Manbij.......

Is the US willing to lose a major NATO member over their decision to support the arch enemy of Turkey...the PKK??

Tells me someone in DoD has not studied the history of the area......

YPG spox "Assad army and allies reached our Manbij controlled territory, they will not fight us, now the road is open from Mabij to Aleppo".

To block #EuphratesShield from Raqqa and avoid attack on Manbij, YPG will try every trick in the book including an alliance with Assad/IRGC.

Hizbollah's been helping Assad & is on the US Terror list since 1997 yet the US hasn't targeted them. Why?

Outlaw 09

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 1:42pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Aleppo: New Turkish artillery strikes against #YPG in #Arima west of #Manbij.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 1:42pm

This is the key sentence that sums up just how badly General Townsend is basically lying .....

Beyond that, the plan would also call for local Arab fighters to secure Raqqa after Kurdish and Arab fighters seized it.

THIS was suppose to be CENTCOM solution for Manbij..BUT who has the say and who controls Manbij today..SDF or the YPG.....????

It is the YPG/PKK....."not local Arab fighters" that had been driven out by IS.....

YPG/PKK flags are everywhere in Manbij not a single SDF flag to be seen...

SO if you cannot trust CENTCOM and General Townsend to tell you the truth who do you believe that says an Expedition Force will solve the problem???

Outlaw 09

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 12:23pm

This article while interesting sails past the last five years of the Obama failures in Syria and Trump.....

There was never a need to fully engage if the US had settled on actually supporting Syrians themsleves in taking care of the IS problem.....

REMEMBER Syrian Sunni's fighting IS Sunni's is far more perferable than sending in US boots on the ground which are already there supporting the Kurdish YPG WHICH is a fig leaf cover for the PKK a US named Stalinist/Leninist terror group from the 70s.

The key has always been the removal of a genocidal dictarship run by Assad which the Syrian FSA has always us get rid of Assad and then we will get rid of IS on our terms....

BUT then what was the Obama response that chewed up over three years..the smokescreen argument that the FSA was not moderate enough....that argument lasted until Obama left Office..ever wonder why....??

If we see that Turkey and the FSA working slowly and steadily using armor and artillery have bascially cleared al Bab...WITHOUT US assistance.

ALL the while Russia and Assad reduced Aleppo to ruins with not a single attempt by the West led by the US to end the genocide and starvation....

The solution has been up front and in our faces since 2012...assist the Syrians end their dictatorship and they in trun would have taken care of IS as Syrians themselves greatly dislike IS.....

Read this article on the Turkish view of the US assistance to the SDF which Turkey truly sees as being a terror organization front for the PKK....WHO they have been fighting for over 40 years now.....

THEN notice the comment by General Townsend who stated...."the Kurdish fighters have told us they are no threat to Turkey"....

My comment is as follows.......sure...really....where do you get the audacity to truly believe them after a number of human rights orgs have accussed SDF/YPG of ethnic cleansing of Arab towns they take over.....DURING the Manbij fighting the YPG called in a US air strike on a building they claimed was housing the end over 121 Syrian Arab Sunni IDPs were killed inclsduing women and childen...and that was not deliberate on the part of YPG???...AND CENTCOM stated when it became clear they had bombed civilians to investigate it...until today..nothing from CENTCOM.....SO why would FSA trust the US which they assume support openly Assad and YPG/PKK????????

READ...well worth it.....then tell me that sending in a massive US Expedition Force will settle the will only increase the complexity of Syria by a factor of 10 TIMES.....

Turkey's been at war with them for 40 years. No threat.…