Thursday, March 30, 2017


While we appear to be leaning forward more in the war on ISIL and other jihadis, with a more prominent role for conventional forces at a low level, the Trump approach to fighting the jihadis is still based on the Obama era emphasis on special forces:

From Yemen to Syria to here in Central Africa, the Trump administration is relying on Special Operations forces to intensify its promised fight against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups as senior officials embrace an Obama-era strategy to minimize the American military’s footprint overseas. ...

Now, surrounded by generals who have been at the center of a decade-long shift to rely on Special Operations forces to project power without the risks and costs of large ground wars, he is choosing to maintain the same approach but giving the Pentagon more latitude.

Which is nice if it works--and if it doesn't burn out our special forces.

Remember that this was the approach that Bush took in Afghanistan in 2001 but which Obama rejected with two surges in 2009.

Heck, it worked in Kosovo in 1999 under Clinton (although we can debate the impact of the growing threat of conventional intervention).

And while the Obama-Trump special forces emphasis is intended as a rejection of the Bush experience in Iraq (and the Obama experience in Afghanistan), it is also possible because unlike in Iraq from 2003-2007 or in Afghanistan in 2009, we have local allied forces sufficient for the mission that we can support in Iraq, in Syria (for the ISIL mission, at least), and in other locations like Somalia (where international missions train local Somali forces despite the weakness of the state) and other locations in Africa that have governments and militaries to support..

As for the problem of burning out special forces, conventional forces could take on some missions like training more established local militaries, calling in firepower for local forces in combat, and advisory missions that accompany local forces into battle.

There does seem to be more of a willingness to use conventional forces, such as this 82nd Airborne Division task force dispatched to Mosul represents:

The paratroopers comprise two infantry companies and a route-clearance platoon from the division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, according to a U.S. defense official, who spoke to Military Times on the condition of anonymity. They are scheduled to depart from Fort Bragg in North Carolina on Tuesday.

Max Boot writes of the war under the Trump administration:

At the very least, it is intensifying the plan that the Obama administration had in place in ways that are, on the whole, welcome, even if they also carry greater risks.

I assume that for those who fear that Trump would go on a global spasm of killing once in office that this kind of basic continuity is comforting and that they will quietly shelve their plans to sneak across the border to Canada (funny they never talk about seeking refuge in Mexico).