Small Wars Journal

How Trump Betrayed the General Who Defeated ISIS

Thu, 04/04/2019 - 4:02pm

How Trump Betrayed the General Who Defeated ISIS by Robin Wright - The New Yorker

… The drive to flush ISIS out of Syrian territory was described as “the most successful unconventional military campaign in history” by the Middle East Institute last month. More than a dozen American diplomats and military officials involved in Syria told me the same thing. The campaign was distinct from the counterpart operation in neighboring Iraq, where the United States coördinated with a friendly government, retrained its conventional army, provided sophisticated weaponry, established a headquarters for a coalition of seventy-four countries, and had legal status granted by parliament.

The campaign in Syria liberated roughly the same amount of territory. But it relied on an unlikely partnership between élite U.S. Special Forces teams and a scrappy local militia led by Mazloum, a middle-aged Kurdish rebel whose face has been weathered by years of conflict and five stints in Syrian prisons. They all operated in defiance of the Syrian government and its Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah allies deployed nearby. Their mission was shrouded in secrecy. American troops wore no identifying insignias, ranks, or names on their uniforms. The Syrian fighters knew only the first names of the Americans, including the commander. Yet they established an unusual level of trust. The U.S.-led international coalition provided air cover, but it depended on the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., to protect their troops on the ground.


Together, they seized twenty thousand square miles in northern Syria, a dusty region of crops, pastures, and oil fields that reminded me of Oklahoma. When I drove around Raqqa, the former ISIS capital, little girls with ponytails and pastel backpacks were headed to school—after years of being banned from education or even from leaving home.


Women, their faces uncovered, strolled to the street markets rising amid the rubble, much of it created by U.S. air strikes. Small groups of men sat curbside, sipping their morning tea and smoking, another practice that was banned under ISIS. At several shops, workers were pounding twisted construction rods—giant metal tumbleweeds pulled from bombed-out buildings—to flatten them, for use in reconstruction. Spring lambs, small and pristine white, nibbled along the roadsides.


In Washington and other Western capitals, the territorial defeat of ISIS, which for years was considered the greatest threat to global security, will almost certainly be studied as a model for future counterterrorism operations…

Read on.