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There Is A Special Relationship Between the Kurds and U.S. Special Forces

It’s no secret that Syrian Kurds and Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga are among the staunchest allies the United States has in the fight against Daesh (ISIS). What’s less commonly known is American Special Operations Forces, more commonly known by their acronym SOF, work closely with Kurdish fighters. They are part of an expanding “shadow war” against Daesh that I examine in my latest piece at NRT English.

The Battle for Raqqa Has Begun

Kurdish-led forces have surrounded Raqqa, the de facto capital of Daesh/ISIS in northeastern Syria. Crucial to Daesh because it serves as a nerve-center for planning terrorist attacks abroad, it is also a potent symbol of the jihadists’ efforts to establish a caliphate. 

Since I filed my column on Monday morning events have moved rapidly. Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (pictured above in a Reuters photo) held a media conference Tuesday. SDF spokesman Talal Silo told reporters and fellow fighters the “great battle to liberate the city” will be tough and bloody because Daesh “will die to defend their so-called capital.”

U.S. military officials echo that sentiment. Privately, some say they are hopeful that there might be a quicker outcome because of a better tactical situation than the Iraqi Army faced during the on-going siege of Mosul.

But no one expects Daesh to simply walk away.

 

Trump Takes On Iran

In probably the most statesman-like speech of his presidency, Donald Trump on Sunday called on Muslim nations to unite behind the cause of defeating Islamic extremists around the world. But he didn’t stop there: He called out Iran as the leading state sponsor of terrorism. That’s a theme that preceded his address before and during his time in Saudi Arabia. My column for NRT English examines how Trump wants to change the narrative about Iran, not about his political woes.

U.S., Iraq inch toward permanent military presence

According to the Associated Press, White House and Iraqi government officials are quietly negotiating increasing the number of U.S. troops deployed to Iraq — a reversal after both the Bush and Obama administrations reduced U.S. forces there.

The attitude can be summed up in a simple phrase now popular with the Trump administration national security team: The U.S. left Iraq too soon. The withdrawal of U.S. troops six years ago authorized under the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and Iraqi governments led to political chaos and gave Daesh the opportunity to launch its insurgency.

My recent column for NRT English explores the questions raised by this development and continues my coverage of the issue.

Trump the Internationalist?

Once upon a time, Donald Trump disdained U.S. international involvement and criticized his predecessors for what he considered a reckless and adventurous foreign policy. Now, his administration talks openly about the “international community” in the wake of Syrian gas attacks on its own civilians and Kim Jong Un’s threats of further nuclear tests. There is even the question of how the U.S. will continue to offer its services as a protector state to Syrian Kurds — an issue that is particularly timely because of Turkish airstrikes against the YPG. Here is my column about the evolution of Donald Trump and how it will shape American engagement in the international order.

More U.S. Bases in Iraqi Kurdistan Are Inevitable

It’s not about crU.S._Air_Force_Col._Rhett_Champagne_speaks_with_the_chief_of_staff_of_the_Iraqi_air_force_at_Q-West_Airfielduise missile strikes or Strykers rumbling into Daesh-held towns. Wherever the United States goes in the Middle East it plants its flag — and that means bases that allow U.S. fighting men and women to operate in places like northern Iraq and Syria. Here is my article on the inevitability of more U.S. bases in Iraqi Kurdistan. It’s my latest column for NRT English.

WaPo reveals Trump’s Anti-ISIS Plan

It’s great reporting, I’ll say that much. An article in Saturday’s Washington Post outlines many of the specifics in a plan to militarily defeat ISIS that is under review by the Trump administration. The article describes the plan as the preferred military option. There’s no word on whether it will receive final approval, but as Strykers flying U.S. flags bear down on Manbij in northern Syria it looks like there is already a more overt U.S. military presence in the fight to destroy Daesh. Here’s my analysis of the plan at NRT English.

Is there a “Trump Way of War”?

Many argue that Donald Trump does not have a coherent strategic outlook for the United States. I disagree. In fact, American history inspires his efforts to develop a grand strategy for the nation. Trump’s newly acquired fascination with the presidency of Andrew Jackson seems to shape many of his attitudes. In addition, the president seems to possess a talent for sensing and addressing the Jacksonian impulses that are part of U.S. culture. My latest column at NRT English suggests that if you want to understand the Trump Way of War, consider the presidency of Andrew Jackson.