In 45 days there will be a new sheriff in town and he’s bringing a Mad Dog. Things will change.
The secretive teams of Green Berets guiding rebels in northeast Syria have expressed frustration with the amount of micromanagement they receive from a top-heavy headquarters in Iraq and the United States.
Special Forces sources tell of support staff watching the free-spirited Green Berets on reconnaissance aircraft and then criticizing their performance as they conduct the mission officially described as “train, advise and assist” the multi-ethnic Syrian Democratic Forces. The Americans and SDF are fighting their way toward Raqqa, the Islamic State terrorist army’s home base in Syria. Some of the “assisting” has drawn the Americans into firefights.
One officer chalked up the complaints to the sensitive political situation of U.S. troops on the ground in a chaotic country amid competing groups of Arab, Kurdish and Turkish forces, all converging with different objectives. The Green Berets, known officially as Army Special Forces, must act under strict combat rules after President Obama approved their insertion one year ago.
“Based on the very high-level approval required to conduct operations, it can be extremely frustrating for the teams,” the officer told The Washington Times. “We just don’t have the latitude we had during our years in Iraq, and that can be frustrating for the teams. The progress over the last year has been slow. Each team may not see it during their rotation, but cumulatively we’ve made significant progress against Daesh while maintaining relationships with Turkey and Jordan. In my many years in Special Forces, I’ve never been involved with a more complex mission.”
The officer said that any foreign assistance operation governed by Section 1209 of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, as is Syria, “comes with lots of rules and scrutiny from Congress and the Defense Department, so we had to be very deliberate on how we execute this program.”
A second Special Forces source told of Green Berets in Syria being criticized for not immediately answering a phone call from overseers in Iraq. Others get critiqued back at their forward operating base in Syria after supervisors watched their actions on surveillance drones.
The second Special Forces source told The Times of a recent incident: A group of Green Berets and their partner rebels were taking sporadic long-range fire. Tired of waiting for permission to return fire, they killed the sniper. That, in turn, brought more fire from Islamic State fighters. The Americans found themselves in a firefight and then evaded the enemy.
“Why even have the guys out there?” the second Special Forces source said. “It’s literally that they are watching you and watching you, and they’ll call you, and if you don’t answer — it’s kind of like having parents. As an organization, we have become incredibly risk-averse.”