The Washington Post reports: With the offensive to reclaim territory from the Islamic State largely stalled in Iraq, the Obama administration is laying plans for a more aggressive military campaign in Syria, where U.S.-backed Kurdish forces have made surprising gains in recent months.
The effort, which would begin by increasing pressure on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, marks an important shift in an administration strategy that for most of the past year has prioritized defeating the militant group in Iraq and viewed Syria as a place where there were few real prospects for battlefield success.
The White House’s top national security officials met last week and will convene again in the next few days to discuss ways to capitalize on recent and unexpected gains made by Syrian irregular forces. The administration is considering providing arms and ammunition to a wider array of rebel groups in Syria and relaxing vetting standards, effectively deepening America’s involvement in the ongoing civil war.
Such a move could lift some of the restrictions that have slowed the Pentagon’s troubled program to train Syrian fighters in Turkey and other sites outside Syria.
Rather than subjecting rebels to repeated rounds of screening before and during their training, U.S. officials might restrict vetting to unit leaders already in the fight. “The key thing is getting them some [expletive] bullets,” one U.S. official said. [Continue reading…]
Although this report leads by saying “the Obama administration is laying plans,” it sounds more like the military is laying down plans and lobbying by all means — including through the press — to win White House approval. Buried deep in the report is this caveat:
Officials stressed that no decisions have been made and that the White House may continue the current approach in Syria, which includes a mix of airstrikes, direct backing for U.S.-trained rebels and indirect support for other forces.