Dempsey Has Been Handed a Mission Guaranteed To Fail
October 12, 2014 • 12:35PM

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey will be convening a meeting of 20 chiefs of defense at Andrews Air Force Base on Oct. 14, to, according to a Pentagon statement issued yesterday afternoon, “discuss the coalition efforts in the ongoing campaign against ISIL.” The reality is that Dempsey has been tasked with the impossible, to destroy an insurgent group, the creation and continued existence of which has been fostered by some of the very countries who will be at the table with Dempsey in that meeting next week. At the same time, some of the governments that could be of great help in meeting the threat, namely the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad, and Iran’s and Russia’s, are locked out of the so-called “coalition” that President Obama has assembled to purportedly wage war on ISIS.

According to Defense News, Gen. Lloyd Austin, chief of US Central Command, will be at the meeting to brief the defense chiefs on the progress of the campaign and the situation as it stands then. The talks are expected to focus in part on training and arming “moderate” rebel forces in Syria and Iraqi government troops to take on the ISIS extremists, who have seized a large stretch of territory in Syria and Iraq. The European partners in the coalition, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE -- that is, the Arab states participating in the air strikes -- and Australia, are all expected to be there. Not planning to attend is Turkey’s Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel, who, Today’s Zaman reports, has another engagement that day, though what that engagement might be was not revealed by the Turkish defense ministry. Chief of General Staff Operations Department Lt. Gen. Erdal Öztürk will be attending the meeting in Özel’s place.

Neither the Pentagon statement nor Defense News indicates whether or not Turkey’s demand for a buffer zone/no-fly zone along the Turkish border with Syria will be on the agenda for the meeting, but the Pentagon is still rejecting the idea. Not only would the imposition of such a zone entail a much larger military commitment than the US is willing to make, but it would also be an invasion of Syria and likely be the trigger for a much larger conflagration. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has shown little enthusiasm for the idea, reports the Associated Press in an analysis posted early this morning. According to AP, Dempsey has estimated that the endeavor would require hundreds of U.S. aircraft and cost as much as $1 billion a month to maintain, with no assurance of a change in battlefield momentum toward ending the Syrian civil war. AP also points out that “Engaging in direct military action against Assad’s government also would severely stretch the United States’ already tenuous claims that its intervention in Syria is legal under U.S. and international law.”