With the announcement today that the Obama administration will send 50 U.S. ground troops to northern Syria to “advise and assist” rebel groups fighting the Islamic State, many have noted that President Obama is breaking a promise he made repeatedly to Americans not to put troops on the ground in Syria.
The administration claims that the special forces are not on a combat mission, but unless they are sent to Syria without weapons or without permission to engage in combat, this is an argument really hard to accept. And according to a “senior defense official” and reported by The Hill, this small deployment is “only a start” and could include “partnered raids” against ISIS. Certainly sounds like a combat mission, doesn’t it?
How are Democrats on Capitol Hill taking this news? So far, pretty quietly. Sen. Tim Kane of Virginia did release a statement questioning this deployment, as well as the sending of 3,500 troops to Iraq. From the NY Times:
“The president’s decision drew a scornful response from at least one prominent Democrat. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, an Obama ally who served as the party’s chairman, quickly released a statement noting that a year ago Mr. Obama “stated that American combat troops would not be returning to the fight in Iraq” but that now there were more than 3,500 American troops in Iraq.
Mr. Kaine said he supported Mr. Obama’s diplomatic efforts in Vienna to find a solution to the Syrian war, but noted “the incongruity to pursuing political discussions while at the same time ramping up our U.S. military presence in Syria to address half the problem.”
And Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico said the decision was a mistake , saying authorization from Congress was legally necessary and the risk of conflict with Russia and the Syrian army was too great.
How do presidential candidates Sanders and Clinton feel about Obama’s decision? During the first debate, both were against sending ground troops to Syria. Hopefully we will be hearing from them and other Democrats (and the single anti-war Republican, Sen. Rand Paul) in clear dissent to this latest escalation of military misguidedness in the Middle East.