The Pentagon can’t stop boasting about the successful seizure of a town in Syria, and is pointing to it as a sign its Islamic State strategy is working.
Pentagon-backed rebels seized the city of Manbij, a small town on the Turkish border, from ISIS earlier in August. ISIS used the town to ferry foreign fighters from Turkey to its wider territory in Iraq and Syria.
“Utilizing local forces and our own Special Operations forces, partnered with overwhelming coalition air power, and enough time — the Islamic State really doesn’t have an answer to it,” one senior defense official told The Washington Post.
Reports indicate that days after the U.S. declared victory in Manbij, multiple airstrikes were still needed to quash remaining ISIS fighters. The airstrikes indicate the Pentagon’s declaration of victory was likely premature.
The U.S. has deployed a limited special operations force to assist the rebels on the ground, in addition to funding and arming these rebel groups. The special operations forces are not allowed to engage ISIS, and serve in advisory capacity.
The problem is now that Manbij has been retaken, a large part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) no longer cares about advancing on other ISIS held towns. The SDF is composed of varying parts of religious minorities in Syria, including Kurds and Sunni’s. The Kurds, the most professional and capable component of the SDF, wanted to retake Manbij because it is historically important to its people.
Other cities ISIS holds in Syria aren’t historically Kurdish, and most of the fighters simply don’t care about taking them back. Pentagon officials recognize the Sunni deficit of the SDF, but acknowledged to the Washington Post they would need Kurdish support in future operations.
The Pentagon’s gloating is a symptom of the Obama administration’s use of territory seized, as the measure of success against ISIS.
“The strategy of containing ISIS in Iraq and Syria has been successful, taking territory from the group has been successful, making the group less dangerous has not been successful,” Nick Heras, Bacevich fellow at the Center for a New American Security, previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation. Heras further explained that as long as ISIS can declare affiliates across the globe, it can retain its narrative as an Islamic movement and pose a major threat to the U.S.
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