Defending against potential criticism of a recent Department of Defense decision to openly provide weapons to Kurdish fighters in Syria, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Colonel John Dorrian tweeted yesterday that every weapon will be completely accounted for and pointed at the Islamic State.
— OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III (@OIRSpox) May 10, 2017
The decision to arm Kurdish militants made this week is fraught with political liabilities, particularly with key NATO ally Turkey. The Turkish government has long made it known that they consider the Kurdish fighters the U.S. is supporting to be terrorists, responsible for the long-standing insurgency being waged in Turkey.
After originally denying providing any such equipment to the Kurds, the Trump administration deemed it was necessary to go public with the information, likely because America’s hand in arming Kurdish fighters will be impossible to conceal during the upcoming battle for Raqqa.
U.S. military commanders had long been vocal about the necessity for arming the Kurds with more advanced weaponry, saying they are the only realistic option for fighting the Islamic State in Syria, and the most likely to succeed on the battlefield. President Obama had considered the same plan, but received heavy pushback from members of his staff that the fallout with Turkey would be too significant to justify the move.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster notified a Turkish envoy of the change in the White House on Monday, before the decision was made public the following day. The Turkish delegation had been dispatched to the White House specifically to negotiate with the Trump administration and advise against arming the Kurds. Official Turkish condemnations quickly followed suit.
Colonel Dorrian’s tweet was met with a variety of sarcastic replies, no doubt in recognition of the United States’ long history of arming rebel or militant groups to achieve a short-term gain, only to regret that same decision years later. Some of the most famous examples of just such a ‘blowback’ include arming the Afghan Mujahedeen during the Soviet-Afghan war, some of whom later went on to form the core of al-Qaeda, and the arming of Nicaragua’s Contras in the 1980s. Some would argue there should be an asterisk on those examples, as there have been many more success stories with such programs than embarrassments.
But Colonel Dorrian’s decision to tweet in absolutes may come back to haunt the leadership of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Featured Image courtesy of Twitter. Image purports to be of MRAPs given to Kurdish fighters for the eventual Raqqa campaign
— Furiouskurd (@Furiouskurd) May 10, 2017