Last week’s dramatic events in Syria, that began with a chemical weapons attack that left dozens dead and culminated in an American missile strike on an air force base belonging to the Syrian government, were watched with bated breath by people all over the world as they tried to extrapolate just what this turn of events means for ongoing relations with Syria, Russia, and other countries involved in the ongoing fight against ISIS in the region.
It stands to reason that no one was more interested in divining that outcome than the American troops already in Syria, serving as trainers, advisors, and support for rebel groups engaged in fighting the terrorist organization.
According to officials tied to ongoing American military operations in Syria, adjustments in strategy and methodology have been enacted in order to strengthen protections for American forces within Syria following Thursday night’s cruise missile attack on the Syrian government’s airbase. In order to protect operational security, those officials opted not to elaborate on the changes that have been made, but one official, who wished to remain anonymous, pointed out that the changes have not slowed or hindered U.S. strikes against ISIS targets in the region.
The U.S. Defense Department issued a statement that aligned with statements made by a number of government officials claiming that the strike was intended as a strategic deterrent to any further chemical weapon use by Assad’s regime, and while more action is possible, the American government has made it clear that they hope not to have to intervene into Assad’s military activities again. The Russians, for their part, have issued statements suggesting that they would act to defend Assad’s assets in Syria – a puzzling sentiment, seeing as they were given advanced warning of Thursday’s attack and chose to take no action whatsoever to prevent it, despite theoretically having the capability to do so.
Contradictory statements have been made by U.S. and Russian officials regarding the state of communications between the two nations in Syria, with American Defense officials claiming lines of communication remain open and multiple Russian media outlets suggesting they have been closed by the Russians due to “America’s aggression.”
Coalition forces were not allotted much time to think over how last week’s events could affect ongoing operations in Syria, as they were met with an ISIS attack on the An Tanf garrison, a coalition and Syrian opposition forces joint military base in Southern Syria, on Saturday. As many as thirty ISIS fighters, some equipped with suicide vests, followed a vehicle bomb intended to cripple the base’s defenses, but coalition and partnered forces were able to defend the installation “with direct fire before destroying enemy assault vehicles and the remaining fighters with multiple coalition airstrikes,” per a Defense Department statement.
According to the Defense Department, operations against ISIS in Syria have not slowed since last week’s actions against the Syrian government, nor has the intended goal of the 1,000 or so U.S. troops already within Syria’s borders.
U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, will be in Moscow this week, and the Kremlin has made a point to inform the media that he is not scheduled to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Although that can be perceived as a slight against the American businessman turned diplomat over last week’s military action, it is considered normal diplomatic protocol for him to meet with his direct counterpart, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Regardless of who Tillerson meets with, it can be assumed Assad’s use of chemical weapons, Russia’s seemingly relentless support of his regime, and the future of Syria will be chief among their issues for discussion.
Image courtesy of Reuters