'The Obama administration is expected to announce on Friday a decision to deploy a small number of special operations forces in an advisory role to Syria... a wider strategy of strengthening moderate rebels in Syria even as Washington intensifies its efforts to find a diplomatic solution to end to the Syrian civil war.'
Barack Obama has ordered up to 50 special operations troops to northern Syria, a senior administration official told the Guardian on Friday, in an apparent breach of his promise not to put US “boots on the ground” to fight Islamic State militants in the country.
The Pentagon has also been “consulting” with Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi to establish a special operations task force, with an unspecified number of US forces aiming “to further enhance [US] ability to target Isil leaders and networks” across the Syria border in Iraq.
Washington officials insist that the new deployments do not amount to admission of failure in its existing efforts to combat Isis from the air and support so-called “moderate” rebels with training. ( Guardian October 30th 2015 )Unless the "moderate rebels" are named there is no reason to suppose these rebels are not Sunni jihadists or a militaritly irrelevant group of non-jihadi Sunni democrats. Yet if 'special ops' forces are going, the emphasis would be on directing forces that presumably are not going to be those under fire from Russian aircraft.
The strategy of bolstering mythical "moderate rebels" has had much similarity with the backing the US gave to a Third Force in South Vietnam in the 1950s, one memorably seen as presaging deeper US involvement there in Greene's The Quiet American. It is pure geopolitical wish fantasy.
The backing for the "moderate rebels" has foundered on the facts there has not existed one since 2012: by 2013 militant Sunni jihadists backed by the Gulf States and Turkey, as part of its plan to 're-ottomanise" northern Syria, had led the Free Syria Army to become effectively dominated by them.
The last futile attempt that preceded Putin's decision to commit Russia to military intervention was the farcical Division 30, trained by special forces and the CIA, which lasted a short time and mostly ended up going over to Al Nusra leaving a handful of fighters left. It is hard to see what the US aims to acheive.
Even the absurd acronym 'ISIL' is a form of denial: it terms Syria 'The Levant' because the official doctrine refuses to hold that an official Syrian state is menaced by ISIS because the only legitimate state is represented by the so-called 'moderate rebels' as the official government in waiting.
The danger is that if Russian attacks on the Sunni jihadists other than ISIS ends up bolstering the choice between ISIS and Assad, the US would swing towards supporting the move by the Gulf states in recreating a new form of mujahadeen as in 1980s Afghanistan against the Soviet Union.
This would be an extremely dangerous move that could see Saudi support for Sunni jihadists in Chechnya and Dagestan as a counter to Russian moves in Syria. That could well lead to greater Russian and Chinese support for the Kurds, not least as Erdogan has been trying to stir up Islamist opposition in Xinjiang.
Erdogan has since 2009 stepped up support to seperatists, though in a way that could be plausibly denied, accusing the Chinese of 'genocide' in what he and other Pan-Turkic thinkers have provocatively termed East Turkestan. Separatism would forestall China's plans for it as a safe energy corridor in rivalry with Turkey.
The Turkish backed Army of Conquest in Syria contains the Chinese Uyghur-led terrorist group, Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), a target for Russian air strikes. China has warned any use of Turkic jihadists as 'assets' in Xinjiang would result in military aid to radical Kurdish separatists- “if you touch the Uyghurs, we will touch the PKK.”
Syria is a war and crisis that is helping to fracture further fissure lines spreading from the Greater Middle East into the Eastern Mediterranean right through into the Caucasus and through to the Western parts of China. It has all the possibility of developing from a regional into a full global conflict.