Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Begin the Aleppo Airlift

I doubt that any direct American military intervention in Syria could be more than too little and too late, unless we bizarrely conclude that we must risk war with Russia to achieve our goals. But we have options to defeat Assad.

Well, it is hard to argue our policies the last 5 years have worked as we flail about for options to save eastern Aleppo from the Russian-backed offensive:

Some U.S. defense officials are skeptical that U.S. military power can help as the White House deliberates how to alleviate the suffering Syrian city of Aleppo.

Syrian regime forces, backed by Russian airpower, have completely encircled the opposition rebels in eastern Aleppo, along with about 250,000 civilians, who are running out of food and water.

Air strikes against Assad's forces in western Syria are too risky now that Russia is on the ground with air defenses.

Maybe we could manage to use long-range tube, rocket, and missile artillery to strike Assad's fixed assets near Aleppo.

But other than increasing arms shipments to rebels--even at the risk of arms leaking to jihadi groups (and I don't think the jihadis could hold Syria even if they lead the advance into Damascus. Unless Sunni Syrians really are all just Islamists, the majority of Syrians will support resistance--which we will support--to any such victory)--we could do something that will give the residents of Aleppo hope and inspire resistance to Assad.

We could begin to airlift humanitarian relief supplies to Aleppo.

This option is raised in the article near the end (although I think we'd find the Russians and Syrians would dare to stop ground convoys of aid, so that won't work).

Not by landing supplies at an airfield like we did in the Berlin Airlift. I don't know where we'd do that. But by air dropping supplies.

By using GPS-guided parachute systems, we could accurately drop humanitarian supplies into Aleppo without exposing the aircraft to ground gunfire. Such an operation would at least give the residents some hope and if scaled up enough, do real good.

I've read that we aim for up to 30 kilometer range on these systems. Even with that kind of offset, we'd have to enter Syrian air space where long-range air defense missiles would threaten them. So that's a risk.

Unless we can rig these devices for over 45 kilometer range so our transport planes could remain within Turkish air space, the Russians or Syrians could shoot at the planes.

Also, unlike their use to resupply outposts in Afghanistan, we'd have to count the systems as one-time use items rather than collecting them for return.

It might be that we could only send high-value aid like medicine, baby formula, water purification supplies, and vitamins.

I can't rule out that we could ramp up the effort to send real amounts of supplies given enough time.

And I can't rule out that we could figure out a way to have the GPS systems sent back to the Turkish border for re-use.

But even if the effort never gets large, a Western air drop campaign would at least give the residents hope that they have not been forgotten.

And as always, the ultimate humanitarian solution is to defeat the Assad regime that is bombing and starving the residents of Aleppo (and other civilian urban areas).