Small Wars Journal

The Pentagon's 'Reassure and Deter' Mission in Syria Looks a Lot Like Mission Creep

The Pentagon's 'Reassure and Deter' Mission in Syria Looks a Lot Like Mission Creep - Military Times editorial

The U.S. military has sent nearly 100 Army Rangers into the Syrian city of Manbij. But there is something highly unusual about this particular deployment.

The elite soldiers, who typically operate in the shadows, arrived in armored vehicles festooned in brightly colored American flags, a gesture designed to make their presence abundantly obvious. And unlike the other 15,000 U.S. troops on the ground in active war zones, the Americans in Manbij are not conducting "counter terror" or "advise and assist" operations. 

Rather, the Pentagon has quietly unveiled a new kind of mission: It's called “reassurance and deterrence.”

There are no Islamic State extremists in rubble-strewn Manbij. ISIS fled in defeat many months ago. Instead, the city is occupied by a council of Kurdish militia fighters whom the U.S. has supported for many years. And all around the city are forces backed by the Turkish military, a fellow NATO member that's played a significant role in eradicating ISIS strongholds in Syria. 

The problem is that even though both groups are U.S. allies, the Turks and the Kurds despise each other. Like so many other groups in the Middle East, it’s an ethnic rivalry that dates back centuries. And so, when Turkey's outspoken president recently called for Manbij to be liberated from the Kurds, the Rangers were sent in to "make sure the parties on the ground aren't shooting at each other," says the Pentagon’s top spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis…

Read on.