U.S. Combat Action Across the Syrian Border

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

The U.S. has launched limited kinetic operations inside the Syrian border to help destroy part of a foreign fighter logistics network.

U.S. military helicopters launched a rare attack Sunday on Syrian territory close to the border with Iraq, killing eight people in a strike the government in Damascus condemned as “serious aggression.”

A U.S. military official told the Associated Press the attack included a raid by special forces targeting a foreign-fighter network that travels through Syria into Iraq. The Americans have been unable to shut the network down in the area because Syria was out of the military’s reach.

“We are taking matters into our own hands,” the official told the AP on the condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids.

The attack came just days after the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq said American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he called an “uncontrolled” gateway for fighters entering Iraq …

On Thursday, U.S. Maj. Gen. John Kelly said Iraq’s western borders with Saudi Arabia and Jordan were fairly tight as a result of good policing by security forces in those countries, but that Syria was a “different story.”

“The Syrian side is, I guess, uncontrolled by their side,” Gen. Kelly said. “We still have a certain level of foreign-fighter movement.”

He added that the U.S. was helping construct a sand berm and ditches along the border.

“There hasn’t been much, in the way of a physical barrier, along that border for years,” Gen. Kelly said.

The foreign-fighters network sends militants from North Africa, the Persian Gulf states and elsewhere in the Middle East to Syria, where elements of the Syrian military are in league with al Qaeda and loyalists of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, the U.S. military official told the AP.

Sand Berms were an effective tool for isolating Haditha from foreign fighters, but such a concept will be difficult to implement along an entire border, and probably not nearly as effective. The strike directly against the logistics network, in fact, closely follows an approach recommended by The Captains Journal more than one year ago in Sun Tzu and the Art of Border Security.

The solution is not for Iraq to seal the borders. The solution involves intimidation of Iraq’s neighbors into sealing the borders. While the U.S. and Iraq are involved in talks with Iran and other neighbors, tried and tested military strategy suggests that bullying is the order of the day.

This bullying and intimidation might take the form of financial pressure (or conversely rewards for good behavior), market sanctions, air assets used against foreign fighters flowing in from across the borders, small incursions across the borders to destroy the sanctuaries of foreign fighters, or even larger air power involvement to destroy those sanctuaries and other supporting infrastructure.

The alternative is leaving these sanctuaries and flow paths in place, with no hope of the Iraqi security forces or U.S. forces being able to stop them (due to force size). Tested military strategy aims for the right target. In the case of the borders, the target is the offending country, not the Iraqi border proper. At the moment, the offending countries know that U.S. forces have restricted the battle space to Iraq proper. Either this changes — causing confusion and disaggregation among the foreign elements who wish to destabilize Iraq — or the borders will remain porous.

The question is why now? General David Petraeus has moved on to head up CENTCOM, and General Odierno is in charge of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Is this a sign of a shift in strategy to incorporate cross-border operations solely because Odierno is in charge? It’s possible, but not likely. Since this represents a fairly significant change in strategic approach with potential international repercussions, Petraeus would certainly have been involved in the decision-making, and likely the CJCS.

While it has been claimed in the past that Syria was doing a better job of deconstructing the terrorist networks inside her borders, this has mostly been theater, much as the Pakistani military operations in the FATA and NWFP are intended to be a show to keep U.S. dollars rolling in. The Iraqi insurgency was in many ways born in Damascus, and the constant flow of suicide bombers across the Syrian border has killed or injured at least 4000 Iraqis.

Since cross-border operations have been initiated, follow-through is absolutely necessary. Any capitulation by the Multinational Force, any show of weakness by the State Department, and any reluctance to continue with these operations in the future will spell the death of this strategy, and little if anything will have been gained.

With over 4000 American warriors having perished in Operation Iraqi Freedom, this approach should have been implemented long before now. Nothing needs to be said by the Administration or the State Department about this incident. In fact, nothing needs to be said by the Multinational Force. All spokesmen should respond to inquiries with “no comment.” Everything that needs to be communicated has been. The U.S. is willing to conduct kinetic operations inside Syrian territory. Silence is golden. Let the guns do the talking, as Sun Tzu smiles upon the plan.

  • CopTheTruth

    I agree, but too little, too late, I’m afraid. The Dems are already hinting at a 25% cut of the military in addition to surrendering in Iraq, and I don’t see them pursuing two new fronts – Pakistan and Syria – in the GWoT, since it would be seen as continuing Bush’s policy, the same thing they’ve convicted McCain of. This is a soldier’s worst nightmare, it seems to me: knowing who the enemy is, where to find him and how to beat him, but prevented in that pursuit by people who lack the courage and fortitude to pick up a rifle and face the enemy themselves.


You are currently reading "U.S. Combat Action Across the Syrian Border", entry #1413 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Featured,Iraq,Syria,The Art of War and was published October 26th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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