U.S. Sending Special Ops to Syria—Anonymous Officials Insist No 'Front-Line Combat'

Continuation of policy acknowledgment signaled over last week.



Earlier this week, President Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee would engage in direct action on the ground against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The admission came after a U.S. military service member was killed during a rescue operation targeting an ISIS prison in Iraq. The Iraqi government responded by saying it did not ask for, nor did it need, anti-ISIS U.S. operations on the ground.

Today, the Obama administration is expected to announce the deployment of special ops forces in Syria, as Reuters reports:

The number of special operations troops in Syria would be fewer than 50, said a senior administration official, speaking ahead of an announcement on Friday by the administration. One U.S. official said the number was likely to be in the range of 20 to 30 but could not provide details.

The decision by Obama, deeply averse to committing troops to unpopular wars in the Middle East, would mark the first sustained U.S. troop presence in Syria and raise the risk of American casualties, although U.S. officials stressed the forces were not meant to engage in front-line combat.

Whatever U.S. officials may stress now under anonymity, or later at press conferences, doesn't square with the picture Carter drew. ISIS controls a swath of land from Raqqa in Syria to Ramada in Iraq and the front-line can emerge anywhere there, especially, by definition, where ISIS and anti-ISIS forces are operating. Just last week, Carter told the press U.S. military engagement with ISIS was going to put American soldiers "in harm's way, no question about it."

NEXT: Las Vegas Cops Pay Out After Unconstitutional Prostitution Stop

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. the Senate Armed Services Committee would engage in direct action on the ground against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

    If only.

  2. The Iraqi government responded by saying it did not ask for, nor did it need, anti-ISIS U.S. operations on the ground

    They’ve got the Iranians and the Russians. Honestly, what could we add?

    1. The US could add a lot to this war! More bullets, bombs, causalities, blunders, collateral damage, orphans, cripples, hostages, armed terrorist groups and dollars. And we can reap the fruits of those seeds sewn for a couple generations at least.

    2. That’s Syria, not Iraq.

      This guy made a good point re: the military situation in Iraq

      1. Sorry…

        THIS GUY

        1. Fucking hell these Greasonable buttons don’t work for me at all

          THIS FUCKING GUY pointed out that the Iraqi military is largely under the control of Shiite militia organizations, and that “policy” re: US involvement seems to change month-to-month

          What ever happened with the long-forecast Mosul Campaign?

          “The Iraqi army’s failure to recapture the country’s largest oil refinery from Islamic State after 15 months of fighting is calling into question the government’s plans to retake the northern city of Mosul from the jihadists.

          A U.S. official…described the situation as static, with Iraqi security forces controlling about 20 percent of both the refinery and the town and the rest of the area either contested or under Islamic State control….

          However, [US/Iraqi] cooperation is threatened by regional rivalries on the battlefield and in Baghdad politics.

          Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi faces resistance to the integration of the Hashid into the regular security forces and to reforms that would sideline politicians with ties to Iranian-backed militias.

          Iraqi officials have said Shi’ite militias are reluctant to give up power amassed with Iranian backing…In addition, Hashid elements trained by Tehran oppose any U.S. military role in the battle against Islamic State.””

          1. Iraq needs a secular strongman type as leader to kickass on their crazy Muslim factions.

            Hmmm, seems like they used to have one.



            2. You’re barely maintaining your edge over AmSoc in the “dumbest motherfucker alive” contest. A few own-goals won’t help.

              1. A few own-goals won’t help.


              2. *Puts on ref uniform, makes triangle symbol over goal line*

            3. It is way past high time that we find some skin cells of Saddam, clone him, and bring him back! Goat-fuckers need a good, strong role-model of goat-fucking, and the US of A just is NOT very good at goat-fucking! Get the Chief Master of All Mothers of Goat-Fuckers back into power, THEN declare victory, go home, and stay home! And just MAYBE learn enough humility to keep our dicks in our pants, in the future?

              So Palin’s Buttplug… Yeah, too bad, but you are correct, I wish it were not so…

      2. That’s Syria, not Iraq.

        The Iranians have been fighting in Iraq for years (on one side or another, currently defending the government they spent the previous several years trying to over throw.

        The Russians are more recent:…..ys-2155152

        1. I sit corrected

          That said = the content of the story doesn’t quite live up to the flashy headline

          “U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford made a visit to Iraq Tuesday in order to seek assurances from the government in Baghdad that Russia would not be conducting operations against ISIS on Iraqi soil. “I said it would make it very difficult for us to be able to provide the kind of support that you need if the Russians were here conducting operations as well,” Dunford told reporters traveling with him after the talks, according to Reuters. “Both the minister of defense and the prime minister said: ‘Absolutely.’ There is no request right now for the Russians to support them, there’s no consideration for the Russians to support them, and the Russians haven’t asked them to come in and conduct operations.”

          It was not known when [If?] the new strikes would begin inside Iraq.”

          If and when they do, i assume it will be more newsworthy news.

    3. I say we take them at their word and not put any troops in there.

  3. I just sat here for a full minute trying to think of what to say here, and I just started laughing to myself.

    I thought that American foreign policy couldn’t get any worse than it was under Dubya. Shows what I know.


      Why didn’t I think of that?

      1. ZOMG!1!!!11!1 SO TRUEZ! YOU ARE TEH BESTEST OF ALL!!!11!!!

      2. Just think buttplug. If Clinton had taken Osama when the Sudanese offer him to Clinton, or killed him when he was spotted in Afghanistan we wouldn’t have suffered 9/11 and Bush wouldn’t have been able to invade Iraq.

        Your favorite dictator and mass murder would still be alive.

        You must really hate Bill Clinton.

    2. You knew that was just bait for THE GREAT DEFENDER OF TEH LIGHTWORKER, but you did it anyways.

      *narrows gaze*

      1. I couldn’t help myself.

    3. Same here Juvenile.

      Obumbles is so bad that it is hard to believe he isnt fucking things up on purpose. Can a person really be that stupid?

      Oh, wait.

      “The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has limits.” – Einstein

  4. U.S. officials stressed the forces were not meant to engage in front-line combat

    We don’t intend for anybody to get killed, and intentions are better than Kevlar at deflecting criticism.

  5. when you are sending Special Ops, it’s not just front-line combat, it’s behind enemy lines combat. Yes, DC really does think we are that stupid.

    1. Technically you are right. SEALS, Force Recon, and Delta are not designed to go head to head with an Infantry Battalion. They show up somewhere behind the lines, do their dirty work, and disappear (when all goes right). In Panama a SEAL team was caught on the beach and chewed up by regular heavy infantry.

      But the way they are saying it is either too stupid or too technical.

  6. Just ‘advisers’; not to worry.

    1. Obama’s channeling his inner Ike?

  7. “We want no wider war.” — Lyndon Baines Johnson

  8. “20 to 30 troops”?





    2. Nobel Prize Nobel Prize

      I done got me a Nobel Prize !

      1. And a turd to sing my praises!

  9. WarBama has a war boner and must penetrate more states.

  10. It’s like we’re relivin’ the 60’s, man! Far out!

  11. “Obama, deeply averse to committing troops to unpopular wars in the Middle East”.
    How delusional must the author be to write that? Got a citation, Reuters?

  12. This will only hurt a little.

    Its just a routine audit.

    I’ll only put the tip of it in.

    the forces were not meant to engage in front-line combat.

    1. The check is in the mail

      Just one glass of wine with dinner, officer

      I won’t come in your mouth

      /”Lies” by “Too Much Joy”

      1. “And that’s the last line
        so now this song is done……………..
        THAT’S A LIE….(keep on playing”


          What a great fucking song

          “If you were in Egypt you’d like to King Tut….”

    2. .I’ll only put the tip of it in.

      Sheesh, we just met, Swiss.

  13. “ISIS controls a swath of land from Raqqa in Syria to Ramada in Iraq”

    Holy crap, they are seizing hotels!

    1. dang it.. logged in for the first time ever at work to comment that.. glory… gone

      1. It happens to the best of us, taters.

    2. “Insh’allah, we shall not rest until Doubletree, the Hiltons, and the Grand Hyatt are retaken from the infidel”

    3. Yeah I saw that too. Surprised they haven’t fixed the spelling yet.

  14. All he’s got to do is say, “It really hurts me to do this, but…” right before going guns blazing into everything, and the media will enthusiastically report about his supposed thoughtful reluctance.

    1. Derp. This was a reply to dantheserene above.

  15. Barack Obama: Dumber than Carter; Dirtier than Nixon; Bloodier than LBJ

    1. Truly the greatest president ever.

  16. There will be no boots on the ground – they’ll be wearing sneakers.

    1. Just

  17. All I can say is it’s about time the US took an interest in what’s happening in the Middle East.

  18. So, they’re sending special operations troops in. But, they’re not going to be engaged in combat.

    Yeah, and that Lamborghini, I just bought it to putter around town. I’m never going to break the speed limit. Promise.

  19. Does anyone here believe that this isn’t a direct result of the Iraq war?

    1. maybe, maybe not. There is also this giant cluster known as Libya, rudderless since Qaddafi’s death. It’s like no one things actions have consequences, that if we do largely the same thing with some procedural tinkering around the edges, the result will be better.

      Sending Special Ops people and claiming no combat may well be the stupidest thing yet from this administration.

      1. “Stupidest thing yet” from this administration is too broad a claim that can be judged. There are way too many candidates.


      1. There is no war to talk about. This is just another kinetic military action.

        1. And remember, Pearl Harbor was a limited airstrike with no boots on the ground.

          1. Oh, so America totally over-reacted, then. Japan wasn’t going to war with us at all.

    3. There’s not much reason to believe anything would be different with Sadaam in control. ISIS would have a different name and might get backing from Sadaam (Syria and Iraq hated each other) and the Kurds-the one faction that actually puts out-would be a lot weaker.

  20. OT – The dumbest “science” article you’ll read all day:…..ths-in-us/


      60 deaths? due to ~500,000 vehicles spewing slightly-higher-than regulation-limited emissions?

      Their “science” seems to be a model based on someone else’s model

      “The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that in 2010 there were ~160 000 premature deaths in the US due to PM2.5 exposure and ~4300 deaths related to ozone exposure (US EPA 2011).”

      they just assume the EPA’s estimates are “the base facts”… then apply those wild assumptions to the teeny tiny bit of emissions that VW cars theoretically are adding? It would seem the reliability of these kinds of approaches gets less and less useful the smaller the numbers get.

      1. It also calls into question just how arbitrary emissions regulations are. If the estimated deaths can be represented by a positive number, wouldn’t that indicate the existence of an accepted baseline below which emissions are deemed to have no negative effect whatsoever?

      2. It also calls into question just how arbitrary emissions regulations are. If the estimated deaths can be represented by a positive number, wouldn’t that indicate the existence of an accepted baseline below which emissions are deemed to have no negative effect whatsoever?

        1. Ugh. I’ve been squirreled.

    2. So, how many people are killed by regulations and taxes, if you add up all the hours of life wasted on compliance and forms and shit?

  21. The really fun part about this will be when U.S. advisers get bombed by Russian forces. AIUI, Russia is bombing everyone opposed to Assad, except ISIS. This presents the rest of the world that might think about getting involved in Syria, with the shitty decision of supporting Assad or supporting ISIS.

    If the US troops are training anti-Assad, non-ISIS forces, then it’s very likely they’ll get bombed. Dangerous game of chicken being played here. Especially since does anyone really think the US will retaliate if some Russian planes accidentally-on-purpose bomb a few Green Berets? Reagan didn’t in 1983, and it’s not like Hezbollah had nukes either.

    1. Barack Obama: Dumber than Carter; . . . . . .

      1. False. This is all part of Barry’s 50-dimensional chess game. He’s got Assad, Iran, ISIS and Putin all exactly where he wants them….


        1. He went to Harvard, and John Kerry went to Yale, so yeah, they know what they are doing.

          1. Bush went to Yale, too, but Booooooshhhhh!!

        2. He’s got Assad, Iran, ISIS and Putin all exactly where he wants them

          Taking over the Middle East. Woot!

    2. The French did bomb the Beqaa Valley immediately. The Marines went on the warpath and killed pretty much anyone with a gun who came within a kilometer of them, and the USS New Jersey lit up targets in the area with its 16-inch guns.

      1. Agreed, the New Jersey put on quite the live fire exercise. The Marines still left 3.5 months after the bombings, without materially changing the outcome of the Lebanese Civil War. And while if the wiki is right, the bombardment ended up killing the leading Syrian general in the area, the guys who put together the bombing weren’t dealt with until one of them got blown up by a car bomb in 2008.

        The U.S. sure beat the shit out of Grenada though, two days after the bombings in Lebanon.

        I guess we could bring the Missouri out of retirement to shell a few Russian air bases, should the Green Berets end up getting bombed. Or give Stingers to the FSA, though this time make sure they actually make it to the battlefield we want them to, and not the Taliban

        I just don’t see the point in actually giving the jihadis something American to shoot at, given the Russians and Chinese seem eager to assume the target role.

        1. When I was in the Marines I had some NCO’s who were Beirut Vets. They held a grudge like nobody I’ve ever seen. Had the calmest platoon sergeant in the world – until we thought we had spotted PLO or Hezbollah types trying to raid us. He would have killed them with his bare hands (if we hadn’t blown the fuck out of them with a Dragon).

            1. Do remember to close the italics tags, self.

    3. Agreed. Russia is not going to start a war, but they seem fairly inept while also trying to push the envelope when it comes to instigating us, and that is just a recipe for trouble.

      This also seems like a good formula for Russia to do something to put US troops in a position to request Russian help.

      1. Russia is not going to start a war,

        I don’t think this is self-evident.

        I am actually quite worried that Obama is going to restart the cold war all over again. But he could certainly turn this is into a shooting war with a country that is foundering and may be getting quite desperate.

        This scares the shit out of me.

        1. I do not think Russia has the capability to fight any substantial war. They have one aircraft carrier, I think, and a bunch of Ukrainian farmers stood up to them.

          However, they could make our further involvement in Syria even more difficult, and I am sure they will.

          I also agree that Obama has shown that he is not capable of handling this situation, and I do not think any the other presidential candidates could handle it either, which is why it is scary.

          1. A detailed analysis of Russian military condition and capability linked here

            The summary term was “Rubbish” but the interesting stuff is in ‘why’.

        2. But he could certainly turn this is into a shooting war with a country that is foundering and may be getting quite desperate.

          The Russians are going broke. The Ukraine invasion has turned into a debacle, more from the EU and US sanctions than strictly military defeats, although my understanding is that the theater is in a stalemate. A quarter of their GDP and half their federal revenues come from energy prices. They can’t last more than another year or two at $40-50 barrel WTI.

          For their situation to change, they need:
          (1) to leave Ukraine/have the sanctions withdrawn; or
          (2) raise the price of energy; or
          (3) make up the economic shortfall some other way. Iran gave them God knows how much of that impounded $100 billion for S-300&400; toys, and probably some Yakhonts too, so that’ll keep the wolf away for a bit.

          But Russia and the oligarchs that run it and support Putin, really need something to change their current situation. Will possibly bloodying the U.S.’s nose—perhaps by having Syria or a terror group use the aforementioned Yakhonts to sink/damage a CVN—raise energy prices and/or cause Ivan on the Prospekt to not care about the shitty Russian economy? Who knows?

          1. The Russians have never been exactly logical people (in my experience). I can certainly imagine Putin starting a hot war in the Middle East to drive up world oil prices and to distract the Russian populace.

          2. When Forbes, in May 2015, looked at Russia’s economic forecast, they made a few very interesting, prescient statements. The whole article is worth your time, IMHO, but here are some telling quotes:

            …The national oil fund will be gone in the first half of 2016. Central bank reserves will be reduced to near a half year of imports, and energy exports are under pressure from low prices, antitrust suits, and $50 billion court judgments.

            There are no signs that Putin is ready to engage in the judicial, property rights, and political reforms that would bring investment to Russia and return Russia to the civilized bosom of Europe. In fact, he will do the opposite. Putin’s next takeover target appears to be Siberia’s Surgut Neft with its $34 billion in cash. To Putin property rights mean nothing…

            …If the West sticks with sanctions and energy prices remain low, the 2015-17 Russian economic crisis will make the 2008/9 period look like child’s play. How long can the Russian people be convinced that they should sacrifice their economic well-being for the sake of a few million people in Crimea? That is the issue facing Putin. Perhaps he needs a new adventure to deflect attention from this question.

          3. The Ukranian situation is a stalemate and if I remember correctly the eastern rebel areas are too small and fragmented to be a proper autonomous area. Plus the Ukrainian rebels keep fighting each other and sometimes their Russian handlers. Crimea is a money pit and the Tatars there are a time bomb.

      1. I showed that one to a guy in my office who used to be a WO. He thought it was hilarious.

  22. Great, now we place ourselves in a situation where we may end up trading shots with the Russians. You know, the only nation on earth with more nuclear megatonnage than the US, all to support some “rebels” that would gleefully chop off our heads if given half a chance. It’s stupid, indefensible, insane, and incredibly dangerous.

    1. Basically Kosovo 2.0

      1. Bigger, harder, Kosovo-er.

        1. And this time, we may not have James Blunt to save us all.

          I wonder how much Russian recent foreign policy intransigence towards the U.S. stems from the U.S. kicking sand in the face of the traditional Slavic protector during the whole Kosovo affair and Serbia bombing campaign?

          1. Oh Christ, I’d managed to forget his damn song ever existed. Damn you GG, damn you straight to Hell!

            1. It’s a crazy story, isn’t it? I remember the first time I read it, I was like, “What, James Blunt the singer? The same guy with that long distance phone commercial song? He was an armored cavalry officer? And General Wesley Clark actually ordered him to take an airfield from the Russians by force?”

              Chris Buckley would’ve been embarrassed to have put that in one of his screwball, satirical political comedies. Yet it happened.

          2. I doubt that’s the reason why they are being morons. Russians are long on stupid ethno-imperialism, short on sense.

      2. Yes, lets accidentally bomb the Russian embassy. You think they’ll be as understanding as the Chinese?

  23. Hold on.

    Let me get this straight: we’re sending our troops in to possibly get bombed by the Russians? Because we support groups who don’t support Assad and Russia is bombing anybody who doesn’t like Assad. We will be one bomb away from the warmongers declaring “the Russians are killing Americans”….

    1. Yeah, but BUSH!

      (I think that’s how the progressive justification for this goes…)

    2. They’ll claim that and they’ll be right. That’s part of what makes this so dangerous.

      1. Yeah, but BUSH!!!

        (c’mon, PB, back me up here, buddy!)

        1. You have to spell it correctly…ahem:


          1. So do you – you omitted at least 10 “O”‘s

  24. This might make sense as part of a larger strategy with reliable on the ground allies to back America up. The only allies America has in that theatre are the Kurds and some incompetent Southern Front rebels in Syria. Plus, this administration does not have a strategy or even understand what a strategy is. Got a bad feeling about this.

    1. Not just that, but even assuming we and our Kurdish friends stormed in and took Raqqa and Mosul overnight, what then? We’d just be stuck right back in the same tribal and sectarian nightmare we got ourselves into in Iraq. From the U.S. perspective, ISIS is probably not much worse than whatever would replace it in the Sunni portions of Syria and Iraq.

      1. ISIS is probably not much worse than whatever would replace it in the Sunni portions of Syria and Iraq.

        Yes it absolutely is. This is a proto-nation ruled by an organization that hates us for our freedoms. It will be a base for anti-freedom terror. The West made a terrible mistake allowing the Bolshies to set up the USSR. Not again, I hope.

        “We’d just be stuck right back in the same tribal and sectarian nightmare we got ourselves into in Iraq. ”

        No ‘we’ wouldn’t. The goal should be to crush ISIS into being another rinky-dink insurgency. “We” wouldn’t be stuck with anything; the tribalism and sectarianism would be there problem. One I am pretty sure the Kurds can handle.

  25. How was I to know
    she was with the Russians, too? HUH!

    /Lawyers, Guns and Money

  26. ^^THIS^^
    The only place our troops could be that is shittier than Iraq, would be Syria.

  27. When I want to send in some guys who won’t engage in combat, I always send my most highly trained, best armed, and most aggressive and lethal guys.

    I mean, if they are just to train, why send your best killers?

    1. Some don’t like being referred to as killers.

  28. Awesome! So now when the US accidentally bombs some Russians or vice versa we can have an international crisis between two nuclear armed c powers. This should be exciting! It been a long time since we had a good old fashioned nuclear crisis . I s missing the cold war so hard.

    1. Duck & cover!! All over again, alright!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.