by Bryant Jordan
March 09, 2012
U.S. Special Operation Forces reportedly have been in Syria since December
training groups to conduct guerrilla attacks and assassinations to bring
down Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to a leaked Stratfor memo
published by WikiLeaks.
But Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. James Gregory suggested the memo warranted
being read skeptically.
"I would say that the [Stratfor] email
- and I cannot comment on its
authenticity due to the method in which [it was received] - seems to be
pure conjecture," Gregory said.
The claim of American Spec Ops Forces operating in Syria is made in
internal email dated Dec. 7, 2011, from an official at
Texas-based private intelligence-gathering company.
The writer - whose email reportedly belongs to the company’s director of
analysis, Reva Bhalla - recounts a Pentagon meeting where officials,
without saying that SOF teams (presumably from US, UK, France, Jordan,
Turkey) are already on the ground focused on recce [reconnaissance] missions
and training opposition forces.”
An Air Force intelligence officer told him that there isn’t a viable “Free
Syrian Army” to actually train right now, but that steps are being taken out
“They have been told to prepare contingencies and be ready to act within 2-3
months, but they still stress that this is all being done as contingency
planning, not as a move toward escalation,” the writer states.
pressing on the question of what these SOF teams would be working toward,
and whether this would lead to an eventual air camapign [sic] to give a
Syrian rebel group cover. They pretty quickly distanced themselves from that
idea, saying that the idea 'hypothetically' is to commit guerrilla attacks,
assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces, elicit
collapse from within.
There wouldn't be a need for air cover, and they
wouldn't expect these Syrian rebels to be marching in columns anyway.”
is a minority branch of Islam to which the Assad family belongs.)
Last year, a U.S. Army two-star general said that special operators have
been in the Middle East since
the “Arab Spring” started, but their mission
was to keep volatile situations from getting worse.
“We also keep a close
eye on and can’t ignore the other unstable regions in the world, and you’ve
seen them in the mix here recently, too - Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Tunisia,
Sudan,” Maj. Gen. Kurt Fuller, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army
Special Operations Command, said during a breakfast meeting of the
Association of the U.S. Army’s Land Warfare Institute.
“And if we don’t
address those now, we’ll have to deal with it later and probably have to
commit a larger effort to that."
“So I can tell you that just about any place you see things happening on the
news we’ve got Army Special Operations forces there, and they’re doing a
variety of different things to hopefully prevent and deter these things from
Fuller declined to provide copies of the briefing slides he showed the group
at the breakfast or further elaborate on the missions when questioned by Military.com.
“I’m not going to tell you exactly where our people are or aren’t,” he said.
“I’ll say that if it’s important to this nation we’ve probably got guys
there. They may not be there now but they’ve been there or they’re going.”
Lt. Col. Gregory told Military.com that he could not respond to Fuller's
remarks because he does not have the full context surrounding them. He also
said that DoD does not provide information on Special Operations
The leaked Stratfor memo comes at a time when the Obama administration and
the Pentagon are trying to resist pressure from members of Congress to
intervene militarily in Syria, where Assad’s forces have so far killed at
least 7,500 people, according to the U.N., including innocent civilians.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta came
under fire by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.,
on Wednesday for the administration’s cautious approach on Syria.
"How many more people have to die?" McCain asked. "Ten thousand?"
The U.S. must lead the world toward an end to the crisis, he said.
During the same Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Army Gen. Martin
Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon has begun
early work drawing up "options" for a military campaign against Syria, but
insisted that force should be the last option for ending the bloodshed and
that the U.S. must not act alone.
"We can do anything," Dempsey said. "It's not about ‘can we do it,’ It’s the
question of ‘should we do it,' and what are the opportunity costs
Publicly, the White House has tried to keep American military personnel,
far from the various Arab Spring uprisings as possible."
Obama insisted that the U.S. assume only a
supporting role in
Libya last year after the initial cruise missile and bombing assaults were
conducted to keep Moammar Gadhafi’s troops away from besieged rebel areas.
The only known instance of American combat troops on the ground in Libya was
a mission to rescue a downed pilot last March 21.
Marines belonging to the
26th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune, N.C., rushed inland from
the USS Kearsarge aboard two MV-22 Ospreys after an Air Force pilot was
forced to punch out of his F-15 Strike Eagle.