The Captains are Confused in Syria

By Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, US Army (Ret.)

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, US Army (Ret) was the Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs from 2008-2009. Prior to that, he was the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Affairs from 2006-2008. These positions followed a 30-year career in the military with service as Deputy Director for Strategy and Plans at US Central Command, Deputy Director of Operations for Coalition Forces in Iraq and significant command assignments worldwide. He currently leads a private consulting business for US clients in the Middle East and provides regional security commentary on Arabic, Turkish and English-speaking media channels worldwide.

The recent announcement of plans to keep 200 U.S. “peacekeepers” in Syria has been met with a mixture of relief and confusion. Relief, as the December announcement to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria was almost universally condemned by analysts and politicians, and confusion at the lack of detail that followed the announcement. Few specifics were offered at a 22 February White House press conference and since that time, praise for the decision has masked the simple question, “What will these peacekeepers do?”

If anything is certain, they will not be peacekeepers as defined in Chapter 7 of the UN charter, nor will they be peacekeepers as seen in UN operations around the world. It is equally certain that these troops are little more than a political concession by the White House to ongoing criticism of President Trump’s decision.

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