The U.S. Secretary of Defense (SecDef) Ashton Carter further noted that deploying a specialized Special Ops Force that will “over time” conduct raids in Iraq and Syria “to put even more pressure” on the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham, Daesh, or simply Islamic State (IS). “These Special Ops Force will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture Islamic State leaders.” He further when on to say, “that creates a virtuous cycle of better intelligence, which generates more targets, more raids, and more momentum.”
The raids by the “specialized expeditionary targeting force” will be done at the invitation of the Iraqi government, and focus on defending Iraq’s borders and building the Iraqi Security Forces’ capacity and capability. Though the Iraqi PM disagreed.
Carter further expanded; “This force will also be in a position to conduct unilateral operations into Syria”. As reported, the force will consist of roughly upwards 200. This will obviously consist of various JSOC teams to include; special tactics/terminal attack controllers, CAG, and DevGru to perform the various special operations core missions the SecDef advocated to Congress.
The SecDef’s comments expand on the Pentagon’s announcement in October that the U.S. would conduct more raids similar to one conducted in northern Iraq to free Iraqi hostages. The Pentagon also announced it would send fewer than 50 special operations forces to Syria.
The creation of a “targeting force” to conduct unilateral raids in Iraq and Syria represent a step away from the president’s commitment not to have “boots on the ground” fighting the terrorist group. And the White House has argued that deployment of special operations forces is different from large-scale ground combat operations. That’s a bull shit argument. The Obama administration is trying to imply that “boots on the ground” on applies to “conventional forces”. The reality is that the administration is continuously feeling the pressure for its failed policy in the Middle East and against IS, and certainly both the Paris attack and Russia’s escalation of its support to al-Assad in Syria.
The administration is more focused on, and essentially cares more about the political cause. Certainly, CJCS General Dunford’s contradiction of the administration’s position played into the mix. From the perception standpoint, this is a reaction to the need to make the President appear stronger. Therefore, by broadcasting this publicly, he is shown as telling the world, ‘see ‘I’m doing something about it.’ This essentially is media theatrics and perception management — to get some semblance of a revised policy publicized of showing engagement and ‘doing something’, to show an element of success throughout the remainder of the Obama presidency, and finally, to establish plausible deniability of no policy and to pad Obama’s legacy.
On the positive side, there will be certainly successes executed by our special operations team in both Iraq and Syria, no doubt, but this is a step that is in reality 18-months behind. This should have been the approach and policy implemented when IS was re-evolving and establishing itself after we pulled out of Iraq in 2011, and certainly at the latest in June 2014, when IS proclaimed itself to be an Islamic state and worldwide caliphate. Further, on the fringes leaves absent the discussion of the tooth-to-tale ratio of 5-to-7 support personnel (logistics, supply, communications, life-support systems, maintenance, intelligence, etc.) needed to the core “specialized expeditionary targeting force” special operators. Nor does it address the aspect of mission creep.
Jim Waurishuk, Colonel, USAF