The Pentagon’s plan to assault the Syrian city of Raqqa calls for increased US military participation, according to media reports. Russian analyst Alexei Muraviev suggested that the Western coalition is reconsidering its strategy in Syria.
Significant US military participation would include increased Special Operations forces, arms deliveries to Syrian Kurds and Arab fighting forces on the ground, as well as attack helicopters and artillery, unnamed officials told the Washington Post.
The Pentagon also proposed to ease a number of restrictions, which had been imposed under former United States President Barack Obama, on the size of the country’s military contingent in Syria, currently involving about 500 trainers and advisers.
The US troops would not be directly involved in the fighting on the ground, according to the report.
Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Daesh caliphate, is located in northern Syria, 160 kilometers east of Aleppo, on the bank of the Euphrates. Daesh captured the city in 2013, and since then Syrian forces have made numerous attempts to regain control, but failed. In 2014, the Syrian Army lost control over the entire province of Raqqa.
The Western coalition is now reconsidering its goals and tasks in the Middle East, according to Alexei Muraviev, a senior analyst at the School of Oriental Studies, at the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics.
“Looking back, initially the intervention was expected to be directed not against terrorists, but against [Syrian President] Bashar Assad who allegedly violated human rights. Eventually, these goals contradicted with reality. Now it seems that the new US presidential administration understands that it needs to change its goals in Syria,” Muraviev told Radio Sputnik.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly stressed that the US should destroy Daesh in Syria and Iraq, which would require significant reconsideration of the American strategy in the region.
“As I understand, this reconsideration has entered the practical phase,” the analyst noted.
Some experts suggested that the possible buildup of US troops in Syria may be related to Washington’s attempt to offset Russia’s achievements in the region. However, according to Muraviev, such an assumption is only partially correct.
“Of course, Russia is getting the upper hand in Syria. Maybe, its main achievements are not military, but political, in particular, the negotiating process in Astana. The US-led coalition cannot boast anything of the kind. Nevertheless, the US also has certain achievements, including the operation to liberate Mosul from Daesh. Terrorists are fleeing the Iraqi city. This is why, this opinion has the right to exist, but it doesn’t show the bigger picture,” the analyst explained.
According to Muraviev, the US could turn to cooperation with Russia on Syria, but this depends on President Trump.
“It depends on whether Donald Trump will be able to take independent steps in foreign policy. I think that Trump intends to work together with Russia, at least in the Middle East. Moreover, all forms of cooperation were agreed between [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov and [former State Secretary John Kerry] during [Barack] Obama’s presidency. But the future of such an alliance will depend on whether the new US presidential administration will be able to act independently,” the expert concluded.