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U.S. to Send More Diplomats and Personnel to Syria
The Trump administration plans to expand the number of U.S. diplomats and contractors in eastern Syria to help stabilize the once Islamic State-controlled part of the country, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday.
Mr. Mattis didn’t provide any details about how many U.S. personnel would be sent or when, but he cited two Syrian cities that would receive U.S. help—Tabqa and Raqqa, the de facto Islamic State capital until it fell out of its control this year.
“What we will be doing is shifting from what I would call an offensive, terrain-seizing approach to a stabilizing” one, Mr. Mattis said Friday in a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon. “You will see more U.S. diplomats on the ground, for example.”
His comments indicate that the U.S. effort in Syria would be expanding even as the military campaign against Islamic State appeared to be waning. Earlier this month, the U.S. military said it would keep forces in Syria indefinitely to conduct counterterrorism operations.
The U.S. doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Syria but rather officially communicates U.S. issues to the Syrian government through the Czech Republic in what is referred to as a protecting power. It is unclear how the U.S. could send diplomats to Syria since the two countries don’t have diplomatic relations.
Nevertheless, Mr. Mattis said the diplomats would work toward the “initial restoration of services,” “bring in contractors,” and manage and administer international donations dedicated to rebuilding cities destroyed during the three-year conflict to wrest control of land from Islamic State.
There also would be a continuing military component to the U.S. presence there. “The military would move our diplomats around, protect them,” Mr. Mattis said.
He said contractors would teach local forces how to clear formerly Islamic State-controlled cities of explosives left behind by the jihadist group as it fled territory that once made up its self-declared caliphate.
“We are going to be training people on how to clear IEDs,” or improvised explosive devices, he said, adding, “We will be bringing in contractors for it.”
The defense secretary suggested that the U.S. needed to become more involved in Syria to ensure that Islamic State doesn’t re-emerge there.
“The longer term recovery is going to take a lot of effort and a lot of years after what they did,” Mr. Mattis said, referring to the militant group. The addition of diplomats and contractors “is an attempt to move toward the normalcy. That takes a lot of support.”
Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy to the international coalition fighting Islamic State, said in September that the State Department had a small team of “development and humanitarian experts” on the ground in Syria.
There are currently approximately 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria. The U.S. military has refused to say how many of its contractors currently are in Syria. There are 4,609 such contractors in Iraq, according to the latest department quarterly report.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-to-sen ... 1514576552
How We Were Misled About Syria: the role of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
I have unbounded admiration for the doctors who volunteer for the invaluable and often dangerous work of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). The question concerns MSF’s policy of ‘bearing witness’. MSF will speak out – even against governments – when it thinks a humanitarian situation could and should be dealt with differently by those it holds responsible. It has done so in Syria.
But if none of MSF’s international doctors have been on the ground in Syria’s war zones since 2015, how can MSF claim to bear witness for what is happening there?
MSF has relayed reports from the rebel-held areas to which, exclusively, its supplies and support have been dispatched. The reports – including allegations of government attacks on hospitals and civilians – come from people working with the permission and protection of such groups as Al Nusra, Isis and other foreign jihadis and mercenaries. These anti-government forces are known to exercise a rule of terror and to be not overly concerned about ordinary citizens’ access to medical attention. That is precisely why the MSF doctors withdrew from the areas under their control. So there is scope to ask who the medics on the ground were, and who they were treating.
My question, though, simply concerns the reliability of uncorroborated witness statements coming from potentially compromised sources. For while press statements have been issued from various MSF offices around the world, it appears MSF had no independent access to verifiable information from Syria.
In fact, the public unavailability of detailed or verified information is a matter of record: even John Kirby of the US State Department could only assert that ‘relief agencies that we find credible are levelling these accusations’.
The most prominent relief agency, and visible in all video footage linked to the alleged bombings, is the White Helmets. It is a matter of record that the White Helmets are funded by the NATO and Gulf states whose avowed aim is regime change in Syria; it is generally believed that they work closely with terrorist organisations (how else could the Netflix documentary have shown them roaming so freely in a zone where MSF and Western journalists dared not set foot?). Their independence and integrity are widely questioned.
So while MSF has often been cited as an independent source of support for White Helmet testimony, its press statements have in fact merely repeated White Helmet claims!
Whether intending it or not, MSF thereby became complicit in purveying a particular narrative that suffused the Western media during the period from 22 September to 22 December 2016. Before September, the media had been perfectly clear that the citizens of eastern Aleppo were being held captive, effectively as human shields, by forces dominated by jihadist terrorists. That changed following the uncompromising statement by Samantha Power to the UN Security Council, in which she invoked the White Helmets as victims and witnesses of Russian and Syrian aggression.
Western governments and media re-designated the terrorist groups as ‘moderate rebels’. Concurrently, anti-government activists like Lina Shamy started tweeting in English, the celebrated twitter account in the name of the child Bana was created, and there followed a flow of ‘famous last webcams’ from purported ordinary civilians voicing fears of impending massacre by the Syrian government.
Those of us in the West who were uncertain about the authenticity of all this social media activity in a zone lacking basic infrastructure, let alone wifi, were coaxed to accept the mainstream narrative because a respected organisation like MSF apparently bore witness to it. Few of us realised that MSF was merely repeating White Helmet testimony, not independently verifying it.
The consistent testimony now coming from the people who have been liberated in eastern Aleppo suggests a quite different story from the one that Netflix and our media have promoted. The Helmets themselves appear to have melted away with the departure from Aleppo of the jihadists and mercenaries. If there were any genuinely independent doctors working with them in Aleppo, they too have yet to be heard from. But most telling, in view of White Helmet claims to have saved some 70,000 lives (or whatever exact number we are invited to believe), is that not a single person interviewed in liberated Aleppo has thanked them.
So, in seeking to bear witness against the Syrian government, MSF has made claims on a basis that is uncertain and contested. By so publicly associating itself with the White Helmets and their narrative it may have risked compromising the reputation it relies on to attract international doctors.
Those of us who deeply appreciate the service to humankind of MSF’s international doctors are left to hope the organisation coordinating their work can be more sure to avoid bearing false witness.
The problem with the false narrative is no trivial one, for it perpetuates a fundamental misrecognition of the causes of the war – and thus of all the casualities the doctors have to deal with. A false narrative not only gives impunity to the guilty but it supports them in moving ever onwards with their murderous designs. It distracts from the ethical truth, too, that the jihadis and the states supplying them with arms and opportunity are in fundamental breach of the law and morality of just warfare.
https://timhayward.wordpress.com/2016/1 ... -in-syria/
Because I'm not an absolutist or ideologue.
On the other hand Trump's polarization of the US establishment is very effective. Further polarization of the west is beneficial to my interests.
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