The Obama administration may not want to admit it, but our troops serving in an advisory capacity in Iraq and Syria may be doing more than just offering training. As Katie wrote yesterday, video footage showed quite explicitly that our forces are engaging the Islamic State directly in Iraq. Earlier this week, a U.S. Navy SEAL, Charles Keating IV, was killed in action while embedded with peshmerga fighters. So, mission creep seems to be occurring, and some have argued was going to be an inevitable consequence against an enemy that’s determined and organized.
Across the border, in Syria, things are more chaotic. In fact, one could argue that it’s total disaster in the sense that CIA-backed militias have been firing on one another. The Chicago Tribune reported in March that our intelligence assets have no control on what’s occurring on the ground:
Syrian militias armed by different parts of the U.S. war machine have begun to fight each other on the plains between the besieged city of Aleppo and the Turkish border, highlighting how little control U.S. intelligence officers and military planners have over the groups they have financed and trained in the bitter 5-year-old civil war.
The fighting has intensified over the past two months, as CIA-armed units and Pentagon-armed ones have repeatedly shot at each other as they have maneuvered through contested territory on the northern outskirts of Aleppo, U.S. officials and rebel leaders have confirmed.
In mid-February, a CIA-armed militia called Fursan al Haq, or Knights of Righteousness, was run out of the town of Marea, about 20 miles north of Aleppo, by Pentagon-backed Syrian Democratic Forces moving in from Kurdish-controlled areas to the east.
The attacks come amid continued heavy fighting in Syria and illustrate the difficulty facing U.S. efforts to coordinate among dozens of armed groups that are trying to overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad, fight the Islamic State militant group and battle one another all at the same time.
President Barack Obama recently authorized a new Pentagon plan to train and arm Syrian rebel fighters, relaunching a program that was suspended in the fall after a string of embarrassing setbacks, which included recruits being ambushed and handing over much of their U.S.-issued ammunition and trucks to an al-Qaida affiliate.
The Tribune added that this comes after President Obama reauthorized a new training program for Syrian rebels—the administration had scrapped the previous one last October after the $500 million program failed to achieve any of its goals. One of the most embarrassing aspects was that this program only succeeded in training “four or five” Syrian fighters to take on ISIS.
It would appear that this new program is equally embarrassing.