Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Syria. Show all posts

24 June 2017

As ISIS Shrinks in Syria, the US and Iran Draw Closer to Conflict

BY MOHAMAD BAZZI

On Sunday evening, a U.S. warplane shot down a Syrian jet after it bombed American-backed rebels in northern Syria. This marked the first time the United States has downed a Syrian warplane since the start of the country’s civil war in 2011. On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced that the United States had shot down an Iranian-made drone in the country’s southeast, where American personnel have been training anti-Islamic State fighters. 

Since President Donald Trump took office, the U.S. military has struck the Syrian regime or its allies at least five times, in most cases to protect U.S.-backed rebels and their American advisers. Even if the Pentagon may not want to directly engage Syrian forces or their Russian and Iranian-backed allies, there’s a danger of accidental escalation, especially as various forces continue to converge on eastern and southern Syria to reclaim strategic territory from ISIS. Russia, for its part, angrily condemned the U.S. action and threatened on Monday to treat all coalition planes in Syria as potential targets

But the dangers are perhaps particularly acute when it comes to Iran, which made dramatic battlefield moves of its own on Sunday, when it launched several missiles from inside Iran against ISIS targets in eastern Syria. Officially, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said the volley of missiles fired at Deir Ezzor province was a response to a pair of attacks by ISIS in Tehran on June 7, which killed 18 people and wounded dozens; the attacks marked the first time that ISIS had struck inside Iran. But the Iranian regime had several less-dramatic means to exact revenge against ISIS targets in Syria—after all, there’s no shortage of Iranian allies operating in the war-ravaged country. 

22 June 2017

The stakes in Syria now include US-Russia war

By Ralph Peters

The stakes in Syria just jumped mighty high. Syrian troops attacked the anti-ISIS fighters we back. We warned them to knock it off. In reply, a Syrian aircraft struck our allies. An American jet shot it down.

Now the Russian government says it will view as hostile any manned aircraft or drone flying west of the Euphrates River. That means us.

Were we to accept Russia’s ultimatum, we could not support our allies and we’d be shut out of the endgame battle with ISIS when, as Raqqa falls, the terrorists make a last stand at Deir ez-Zor (a city with a grim history: It was the end-station for Armenian genocide victims death-marched across the desert).

The technical wording of their threat allows the Russians a little bit of leeway, but what makes the pronouncement dangerous is that it’s public — making it hard for Vladimir Putin to back down. Of course, Putin’s a gambler, and a canny one. He may be bluffing. But we can’t count on it. We must assume his forces in Syria are already setting ambushes for our aviators.

Meanwhile, the Russian media, in a Big Lie mode excessive even by Moscow’s shameless standards, insist US troops on the ground are supporting ISIS, while the noble Syrian forces — alongside their selfless Russian and Iranian comrades — are the only ones fighting the terrorists.

21 June 2017

SYRIA WAR: THE BATTLE FOR THE CAPITAL OF ISIS – PART I & II

BY YALENSIS‎

Dear Readers:

You may be aware that the Syria War entered a new stage in the past week or so. Things are looking up for the combined forces of the Syrian Army, with assistance from the Russian armed forces and also Hezbollah. Syrian tanks made a Rommel-like “lightning move” eastward all the way to the Iraqi border, cutting off ISIS/Daesh units from their Iraqi supplies. While this was going on, the pro-American so-called “coalition forces” entered Raqqa. Like the wiki says, Raqqa, a strategic Syrian city located on the Northeast bank of the Euphrates River, was captured by ISIS in 2013 and became the capital of their Islamic State.

The Headchoppers had their day in the sun, but now their time is almost up. It’s not an issue of “if”, but of “when” and “who”. And the race is on: the Americans seeking to gain some advantage and carve up the Syrian carcass to their own advantage. On the other side: the Syrian government and their Russian allies seeking to keep Syria together in one piece, while making some internal adjustments to benefit, for example, the Kurds.

To help explain the highly fluid military situation, I have this piece from VZGLIAD, by military/intelligence reporter Evgeny Krutikov. The headline reads:

The Battle for ISIS Capital City will Prove a Tough Slog for the Americans

The lede paragraph translates thusly:

The Syrian Opposition, with the assistance of the U.S., hastily entered Raqqa, the capital of ISIS, in an attempt to overtake the pro-government Syrian forces. For the Americans it is a matter of principle to overtake Assad’s forces and to not allow the Shiites to gain control over the borders of the Syrian Arab Republic. The question now is: Will they succeed? It is not excluded that the Americans will find an unpleasant surprise waiting for them.

20 June 2017

Backgrounder on Russia’s Military Intervention in Syria: 2015-Date

Russia’s announcement that the Islamic State group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may have been killed in a Russian airstrike in Syria in late May — if confirmed — would be a huge military coup for Moscow as a key player in Syria’s civil war and strengthen its hand in future peace talks.

It would also mark a climax in Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, in which it has sided with President Bashar Assad’s government, from the first days of the air campaign two years ago to boots on the ground in the city of Aleppo.

The airstrike would also highlight the capabilities of Russia’s modernized military, which has tested new precision weapons in Syria.

Here are some key moments in Russia’s military campaign in Syria.

QUICK DEPLOYMENT

A series of major battlefield defeats suffered by Assad’s army in 2015 prompted Moscow to intervene to protect its long-time ally. On August 26, 2015, Russia signed a deal with the Syrian government on deploying an air force contingent and other military assets at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s province of Latakia, the heartland of Assad’s Alawite religious minority.

Backgrounder on Russia’s Military Intervention in Syria: 2015-Date

Russia’s announcement that the Islamic State group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may have been killed in a Russian airstrike in Syria in late May — if confirmed — would be a huge military coup for Moscow as a key player in Syria’s civil war and strengthen its hand in future peace talks.

It would also mark a climax in Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, in which it has sided with President Bashar Assad’s government, from the first days of the air campaign two years ago to boots on the ground in the city of Aleppo.

The airstrike would also highlight the capabilities of Russia’s modernized military, which has tested new precision weapons in Syria.

Here are some key moments in Russia’s military campaign in Syria.

QUICK DEPLOYMENT

A series of major battlefield defeats suffered by Assad’s army in 2015 prompted Moscow to intervene to protect its long-time ally. On August 26, 2015, Russia signed a deal with the Syrian government on deploying an air force contingent and other military assets at the Hemeimeem air base in Syria’s province of Latakia, the heartland of Assad’s Alawite religious minority.

In a matter of weeks, Russia’s military built up the base so it could host dozens of Russian jets. It delivered thousands of tons of military equipment and supplies by sea and heavy-lift cargo planes in an operation dubbed the “Syrian Express.” On Sept. 30, Moscow declared the launch of its air campaign in Syria — Russia’s first military action outside the former Soviet Union since the federation’s collapse.

19 June 2017

THE TROUBLE WITH TANF: TACTICS DRIVING STRATEGY IN SYRIA

AARON STEIN

In what represents the biggest change to America’s use of force in Syria, U.S. forces have, on three separate occasions, struck Syrian government-allied militias. The incidents happened near Tanf, a border town seized by Syrian rebel groups trained in Jordan from the self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIL, in March 2016. In all three cases, we are told, the strikes were nothing more than force protection measures and didn’t signify a major change in U.S. policy. U.S. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made this point on May 19, just one day after the first strike, telling reporters, “That was a force protection strike. Our commanders on the ground felt like they were threatened at that point. And their rules of engagement allow them to do that.”

Yet, despite efforts to portray these strikes as one-off reactions to Syrian backed provocations, the attacks risk expanding the goals of the military campaign, currently aimed solely at defeating the Islamic State. America’s use of military force appears to be unfolding independent of any broader strategic or political guidance. It is not clear how these actions align with broader foreign policy goals. This lack of clarity allows tactical decisions (i.e., the need to protect U.S. forces) to dictate strategy. In this case, the purported link between the militias struck and Iran, the most important backer of Syria’s Bashar al Assad, risks a broader escalation — perhaps one that some hawkish voices in the Trump administration would welcome.

16 June 2017

A Strategy for Ending the Syrian Civil War


Tough talk notwithstanding, the Trump administration’s early actions in Iraq and Syria appear broadly consistent with the approach pursued by the Obama administration.1 The United States will continue to work by, with, and through local partners in Syria to defeat and destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) self-described caliphate, conduct counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda and its allies in Syria, and minimize America’s investment in western Syria’s more complex civil war. To be sure, there are some meaningful shifts. In the counter-ISIS fight, the new administration seems willing to take greater risk and put U.S. forces closer to the fight in Iraq and Syria, and it has thus far put much less emphasis on humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, and economic aid to areas liberated by ISIS than the Obama administration did.2 Moreover, President Donald J. Trump’s decision to conduct cruise missile strikes against the Assad regime’s al-Shayrat air base in response to Assad’s April 4 chemical weapons attack against civilians was a significant development, standing in contrast to President Barack Obama’s 2013 decision to pursue a diplomatic solution following Assad’s previous use of deadly gas. Nevertheless, despite confusing rhetoric coming from Trump administration officials, Trump’s decision to strike mostly signified an attempt to deter the future use of chemical weapons rather than a fundamental strategic change in policy toward Assad or the Syria war more generally.3

Fundamentally, the biggest challenge the Trump administration will face in Syria is the same one the Obama administration faced: how to end the devastating civil war that has been at the root of so many of the problems emanating from Syria and Iraq over the past six years.4 Indeed, only through a negotiated agreement that ends the conflict can the United States achieve its core objectives in Syria: eliminating ISIS and al Qaeda safe havens, and protecting its Middle Eastern and European partners from the destabilizing dangers posed by foreign fighters and refugee flows. 

15 June 2017

Stabilization in Syria: Lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq

Hijab Shah

As operations against the Islamic State (ISIS) move forward in Raqqa, Syria, the United States and its partners must plan for what comes next. Yet, “stabilization” is a word that often elicits a visceral response within the policy community. Military and civilian veterans of the past 15 years of engagement with Afghanistan and Iraq associate the term with frustration and bitterness, dashed hopes, and unmet expectations. The attempts and failures to bring about security, relief, and basic services to the two war-torn countries now color emerging discussions around repeating those efforts in Syria. Although the hesitation in Washington, D.C., around restarting a stabilization effort is understandable—the U.S. government has already spent $15 billion in Syria since 2014 on counterterrorism operations and humanitarian assistance—the inescapable reality is that Syria is in dire need of help. The Syrian economy is set back by at least three decades, with the city of Aleppo alone suffering $100 to $200 billion of damage in the war, and millions of Syrians have either fled abroad or become refugees within their own borders. Moreover, failure to consolidate gains from counterterrorism operations against ISIS through stabilization of local communities will likely result in the regrowth of violent extremism. Despite the disappointments of the Afghanistan and Iraq stabilization efforts, the experiences offer significant lessons—and cautionary tales—that are applicable to and should inform a potential future U.S. and multinational effort in Syria.

Afghanistan and Iraq: An After-Action Review

8 June 2017

New Details on U.S. Strategy in Iraq and Syria


The key portions of this budget request deserve careful attention. As is noted in an article by Joe Gould in Defense News, it seems to reflect key elements of the DoD strategy review of the wars in Iraq and Syria—which has not yet been released—and provides some important insights into U.S. planning for what will happen after a victory against ISIS in Mosul and Raqqa.

The request makes it clear that the United States is not cutting back on future commitments despite what is expected to be a significant level of victories in CY2017. The President’s FY2018 budget request totals $1.1769 billion, including $1.269 billion for Iraq train and equip (T&E) activities and $0.5 billion for Syria T&E activities. ( Excludes $289.5 million requested in the FY2017/2018 Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF) for support to the Kurdish Peshmerga.) This compares with $1.176 billion for Iraq T&E activities and $0.430 billion for Syria T&E activities.

The document conspicuously does not propose military personnel levels for either Syria or Iraq. The OSD Comptroller did however, propose a rise in average annual troop strength to 5,765 in the FY2017 revised request versus 3,500 in the original FY2017 request in the Request for Additional FY2017 Appropriation. The actual figures for Iraq alone were 3,180 in both FY2015 and FY2016.

6 June 2017

THE MANCHESTER BOMBING AND WHY THE BATTLE AGAINST ISIS WON'T END WITH IRAQ AND SYRIA

BY OWEN MATTHEWS 

Orlando, Nice, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Würzburg, Ansbach, Munich, London—and now Manchester. The pattern is becoming depressingly familiar. The news breaks with blurry cellphone footage—pedestrians strolling on a seaside promenade, shoppers enjoying a Christmas market, excited kids leaving a pop concert. Then come the gunshots, a rampaging truck or the jolting explosion—followed by panic, people running, inert bodies. Within the hour, politicians are on the air with a litany of condemnations and condolences.

Even more familiar: the description of the killers—loners, misfits, members of poor Muslim immigrant communities, most of them followers of the death cult known as the Islamic State militant group. Like the attackers who shot up the Bataclan theater in Paris in 2015, the suicide bombers who hit Brussels Airport six months later and the perpetrators of at least 15 attacks against the West over the past three years, Britain’s Manchester bomber was an alienated, angry young son of immigrants who got wrapped up in ISIS and decided to vent at the world by murdering innocents.

30 May 2017

Syria Has Effectively Ceased to Exist

by Jonathan Spyer

On my last night in Damascus, some younger members of the Ministry of Information-sponsored delegation in which I was taking part decided to have a drink. It was late April, and the bars and restaurants were doing good business in the cool and breezy evenings. An inebriated Russian journalist, accompanied by a uniformed Russian soldier entered the bar opposite our hotel in the Old City where my colleagues were sitting. Words were exchanged. An altercation began.

At a certain point, the Russian journalist produced a pistol and aimed it at the forehead of one of the delegation's participants. He then entered our hotel, and threatened one of the employees there, all with his uniformed colleague silently accompanying him.

How the incident ended says much about who truly holds power in regime-controlled areas of Syria today. After the two Russians had departed, the delegation's participants sought to contact the authorities and report the incident. The representative of the Syrian security forces asked if the armed men were Russians. When told that they were, he replied that in that case, there was nothing the Syrian authorities could do.

The survival of the Assad regime is now assured, but the regime has become something of a façade. 

Electronic Weapons: Stealthy Hide And Seek Over Syria


In April 2017 one of four new Russian A-50U AWACs (Airborne Warning and Control System) aircraft was spotted in Syria. This U version entered service in 2011 but foreign ELINT (electronic intelligence) experts had not yet had a good opportunity to see how effective it was. To do that you have to get your ELINT aircraft close to an A-50U in a combat zone. In this case the most effective ELINT aircraft turned out to be several American F-22s stealth fighters quietly (and apparently undetected) operating over Syria. Officially the F-22s were there to perform missions where effective stealth was a requirement. That meant reconnaissance missions during periods when the Russians or Syrians were angry at the U.S. Russia had some of its most modern

The other American ELINT aircraft was several new F-35Is owned and operated by Israel. These have been seen flying near the Syrian border but no one is sure if an F-35I or two slipped across the border to join the hide and seek action the F-22s had monopolized until recently. The F-22 and F-35 have more than stealth in common. Both have impressive software that automatically operates the many passive (they don’t broadcast and reveal their position) sensors on board both aircraft. The U.S. Air Force recently admitted that the F-22 was, as was always suspected, carrying out ELINT missions (early sales efforts pointed that out). The F-35 uses a similar but different array of sensors and apparently more powerful software to control the collection and analysis of what is out there and do it in real time. The Israelis have installed a lot of their own hardware and software in the F-35I (which is why it isn’t called F-35A) and both Israelis and Americans want to see what the Israeli version of ELINT do, compared to the F-22 and, one suspects, an F-35A pretending to be Israeli for the purpose of playing with the hostile electronics found in Syria.

20 May 2017

Who’s Who in Syria’s Civil War

Zachary Laub

Syria’s civil war has grown ever more complex in the six years since protesters first challenged the government. President Bashar al-Assad aims to reassert control nationwide, while predominantly Sunni Arab opposition forces seek to wrest the state from him. The diverse groups making up the opposition, however, differ on their visions for a post-Assad state, with their ostensible aims ranging from liberal democracy to theocracy.

Unlike Assad and the opposition, the self-proclaimed Islamic State is intent on erasing Syria’s borders to establish a state of its own in territory spanning parts of Iraq and Syria. Kurdish militants, who have fought to establish an autonomous, if not independent, national homeland in the country’s northeast, are the group’s primary foe.

The fight has been further complicated by outside powers who have funded and armed combatants and, in some cases, backed them with air support or manpower. Outgunned by pro-regime forces, many opposition groups have aligned with jihad factions.

By 2017, tens of thousands of combatants were involved in the fighting. Up to half a million Syrians have been killed, most by pro-regime forces, and more than half the country’s prewar population of some twenty-two million has been displaced. The armed groups have been marked above all by flux—in their membership, capabilities, alliances, and ideologies. Broadly speaking, they each belong to one of four networks. 
Pro-Government Forces 

19 May 2017

*** Russia Tries the Diplomatic Approach in Syria


It can be difficult to separate the important from unimportant on any given day. Reflections mean to do exactly that — by thinking about what happened today, we can consider what might happen tomorrow.

For months, Russia has been looking for a way out of the Syrian conflict. Moscow is working to devise an exit strategy that will enable it to both safeguard its interests in the war-torn country and avoid getting stuck in a quagmire there. To that end, Russia proposed a plan during the latest round of peace talks in Kazakhstan to set up "de-escalation zones" in Syria. Iran and Turkey agreed to the deal, and Moscow has since pressed the United States to join in. The issue figured prominently in U.S. President Donald Trump's conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when the two met in Washington on Wednesday. Though the de-escalation zone initiative — Russia's latest attempt to ease its way out of Syria and improve its standing with the United States — is a risky one, it has several factors working in its favor. Still, its success is far from certain.

The de-escalation zone plan is full of loopholes and deliberately vague, excluding key areas where loyalist forces are still advancing. These features could prove strong selling points for Iran and the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, Russia's primary — but increasingly wary — allies in the conflict. Moscow crafted the plan so as not to interfere with the loyalist campaigns currently underway against rebel sectors. The proposal includes a clause sanctioning strikes against terrorists, a provision Russian and loyalist forces could invoke to continue their attacks on rebel forces. (Each party, after all, has demonstrated its skill in labeling the same rebel factions alternately as terrorist groups and as opposition fighters to suit their operational military goals.) At the same time, however, the plan gives loyalist forces the option to halt the fighting in rebel-held areas as needed.

10 May 2017

*** Why Russia Can't Quit Syria

YURI KOCHETKOV
Source Link

It can be difficult to separate the important from unimportant on any given day. Reflections mean to do exactly that — by thinking about what happened today, we can consider what might happen tomorrow.

In the resort town of Sochi, on the Black Sea coast, Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed a possible exit strategy from Syria with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Today's meeting reinforces the urgency with which Russia is trying to extricate itself from the situation it has become mired in. One of the topics up for discussion was the implementation of de-escalation zones — or so-called safe zones — in Syria, part of a proposal to advance the political negotiations on ending the ongoing conflict. Elsewhere in the region, however, Syrian rebels walked out of peace talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana on May 3, spoiling efforts to get Syrian belligerents to discuss a potential solution to the conflict. The move highlights the difficulties Russia is facing — and just how unlikely the Kremlin is to succeed in its plan of making a smooth departure.

8 May 2017

*** Why Russia Can't Quit Syria

Source Link

It can be difficult to separate the important from unimportant on any given day. Reflections mean to do exactly that — by thinking about what happened today, we can consider what might happen tomorrow.

In the resort town of Sochi, on the Black Sea coast, Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed a possible exit strategy from Syria with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Today's meeting reinforces the urgency with which Russia is trying to extricate itself from the situation it has become mired in. One of the topics up for discussion was the implementation of de-escalation zones — or so-called safe zones — in Syria, part of a proposal to advance the political negotiations on ending the ongoing conflict. Elsewhere in the region, however, Syrian rebels walked out of peace talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana on May 3, spoiling efforts to get Syrian belligerents to discuss a potential solution to the conflict. The move highlights the difficulties Russia is facing — and just how unlikely the Kremlin is to succeed in its plan of making a smooth departure.

Russia's intervention in Syria, operating alongside Iran in support of Syrian loyalist forces, has succeeded in several ways. For one, Russia's involvement stabilized the battlefield and restored the advantage to Syrian troops. Furthermore, its entry into the conflict not only secured basing in the country but also provided a proving ground in which to season personnel and showcase Russian military hardware. Finally, the intervention has elevated Moscow's geopolitical heft, marking the Kremlin as a key player in the region.

Russian Military Braces for Possible Follow-Up Attacks by US in Syria and Beyond



Russian state propaganda has definitively changed its portrayal of United States President Donald Trump after the April 7 Tomahawk cruise missile strike on the Syrian airbase of Shayrat (Homs province). The forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (the Syrian Arab Army—SAA) had allegedly used this base to launch chemical weapons attacks, on April 4, against a rebel-held area of Khan Sheikhoun (Idlib province). According to a poll published this week by the Kremlin-controlled pollster VtSIOM, 82 percent of Russians believe Washington’s attack on the Shayrat airbase was “unjust” and a “US provocation designed to destabilize the situation.” According to VtSIOM general director Valery Fedorov, only 6 percent of Russians believe the US attacked Shayrat to punish the al-Assad regime for allegedly using chemical weapons. The rest believe it was an act of illegal aggression and a provocation designed to harm Russia and its allies. The Russian public supports its country’s continued military involvement in Syria (53 percent), though this support is not overly high despite a continuous pro-war message broadcast by state TV propaganda. VtSIOM data reveals that 34 percent want Russian forces to withdraw from Syria. According to Fedorov, the Tomahawk attack has dramatically diminished the previously positive image of President Trump in Russia (Wciom.ru, April 20). The latest VtSIOM poll concludes that Trump’s popularity among Russians has decreased from 38 to 13 percent; 39 percent of Russians see him today in a negative light, compared to 7 percent a month ago (RIA Novosti, April 17).

7 May 2017

Who’s Who in Syria’s Civil War

Syria’s civil war has grown ever more complex in the six years since protesters first challenged the government. President Bashar al-Assad aims to reassert control nationwide, while predominantly Sunni Arab opposition forces seek to wrest the state from him. The diverse groups making up the opposition, however, differ on their visions for a post-Assad state, with their ostensible aims ranging from liberal democracy to theocracy.

Unlike Assad and the opposition, the self-proclaimed Islamic State is intent on erasing Syria’s borders to establish a state of its own in territory spanning parts of Iraq and Syria. Kurdish militants, who have fought to establish an autonomous, if not independent, national homeland in the country’s northeast, are the group’s primary foe.

The fight has been further complicated by outside powers who have funded and armed combatants and, in some cases, backed them with air support or manpower. Outgunned by pro-regime forces, many opposition groups have aligned with jihad factions.

In the Horrorscape of Aleppo


Sameer al-Doumy

For what can War, but Acts of War still breed,
Till injur’d Truth from Violence be freed….—John Milton “To My Lord Fairfax” (1694) 

Dawn breaks to a daily chorus of artillery and mortar fire in two of humanity’s most ancient settlements that today are Syria’s two largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo. Projectiles rain on their rural peripheries, where opposition groups still fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad shelter in tunnels below mountains of rubble. Muezzins wake the faithful to prayer, and warplanes deliver the day’s first payloads just after 5:00 AM. The rebels respond with desultory mortar rounds fired at cities they once dreamed of ruling. In Damascus, their shells explode in the Christian neighborhoods closest to the eastern front lines. In Aleppo, artillery batters opposition bases along the western frontier with Idlib province. Both cities’ exhausted citizens have cause to fear for their country’s uncertain future. 

4 May 2017

Stability Operations in Syria The Need for a Revolution in Civil-Military Affairs

Anthony H. Cordesman


In an ideal world, the U.S. military would only have a military role. But, in practice, no one gets to fight the wars they want, and this is especially true today. The United States is deeply involved in wars that can only be won at the civil-military level, and where coming to grips with the deep internal divisions and tensions of the host country, and the pressures from outside states, are critical. Unless the United States adapts to this reality, it can easily lose the war at the civil level even when it wins at the military level. This is especially true in the case of the “failed states” where the United States is now fighting. The United States either has to hope for a near-miraculous improvement in the governance and capability of host-country partners, or focus on successful civil-military operations as being as important for success as combat.

So far, the United States has failed to recognize the sheer scale of the civil problems it faces in conducting military operations. It has failed to understand that it needs to carry out a revolution in civil-military affairs if it is to be successful in fighting failed-state wars that involve major counterinsurgency campaigns and reliance on host-country forces. The U.S. military role in Syria is a key case in point, and it illustrates all too clearly that any military effort to avoid dealing with the full consequences of the civil side of war can be a recipe for failure.