National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster is open to sending thousands of ground troops into Syria, according to a Thursday report from Bloomberg’s Eli Lake.
McMaster, a retired Army general, is reported to be questioning a war plan against the Islamic State which would maintain the current small force of mainly special operations troops. Sources who support McMaster told Bloomberg that the former adviser just wants a more robust development of the strategy to fight ISIS, while detractors said he wants tens of thousands of troops on the ground and a new Iraq War.
After taking office, President Trump asked for the Pentagon to develop a plan to fight ISIS. Bloomberg reported that there has been no consensus reached regarding this plan and that key officials — such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford — are against sending conventional ground forces into Syria.
The report also said that many military leaders support a version of Obama’s ISIS strategy, which consisted of using airstrikes, and support of certain rebels, particularly Kurdish groups. McMaster, according to Lake’s sources, is not a fan of this strategy as Arab groups are not receptive to Kurds taking over Arab territory, like ISIS’ capital Raqqa.
“While this makes sense tactically, it doesn’t make sense strategically. Those are Arab lands, and the Arabs are not going to put up with Syrian Kurds retaking Arab lands. Whenever you select a military option, you have got to determine what political end state will this support. Regrettably this option puts us back to the drawing board,” retired Army General Jack Keane told Bloomberg.
Lake’s report comes days after Mike Cernovich wrote that McMaster wants 150,000 ground troops in Syria. According to the the Bloomberg story, U.S. officials said this number is “was wildly inflated and no such plan has been under consideration.”
Cernovich responded to this in a post in which he wrote, “Eli Lake failed math class. 150 thousand is tens-of-thousands of troops. Two-hundred thousand troops would be hundreds-of-thousands. 150 thousand is thus well within the range of tens-of-thousands.”
Trump warned repeatedly against regime change in Syria while campaigning for president. However, the U.S. launched a strike against a Syrian airfield last week and top officials are saying Syria can’t be peaceful with President Bashar al-Assad in power.