Right now, the U.S. military is finalizing its options in Syria for President Donald Trump. The troop caps of the Obama era are a thing of the past. At least for now. These personnel limits, so popular among some in Washington, served as brakes against accelerating conflicts, made art of numbers, and led to some military units being broken up and deployed in different pieces. Or in the case of the 101st Airborne Division, deploying some soldiers while forcing the Army to leave its helicopter mechanics behind.
As military planners look ahead to the next stage in the ISIS fight, three questions present themselves:
1) Is the “no boots on the ground” era over, in Syria?
Will Obama’s “no U.S. boots on the ground” policy that large ground forces must be avoided in Syria at all costs come to an end alongside the troop caps?
Right now the answer is: more Americans may go in. But don’t look for American troops in combat roles. “Advise and assist” remains the guiding principle.
Obama publicly remained steadfast on “no boots on the ground,” but quietly sent special operations units both to Iraq and to Syria. Already Army Rangers are providing security in Manbij and Marines, in the area around Raqqa, are in Syria to hoist U.S. flags and keep Russian and Syrian forces at bay. The question is: how many more are coming? And can the mission be contained to remain support rather than fight?