US military wades deeper into Syria

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks to the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

The Pentagon reports that U.S. military troops continue to train local security forces fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and radical Islamic State and al-Qaida terrorist groups in Syria, while Defense officials announced the deaths of another two American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Spc. Javion Shavonte Sullivan, 24, of Fort Mill, South Carolina, died Jan. 8 in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, from a non-combat related incident. Sullivan was assigned to the 16th Signal Company, 11th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas.

Sgt. 1st Class Mihail Golin, 34, of Fort Lee, New Jersey, died Jan. 1 in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, after being engaged by enemy small arms fire while on a dismounted patrol. Golin was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Carson, Colorado.

Sullivan and Golin are among 6,948 Americans killed in the Middle East, in addition to the 52,644 wounded since the US rushed to war after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, when 19 militants associated with al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide strikes that killed almost 3,000 people.

Raqqa Internal Security Force Training Class 005 graduates receive equipment paid for by US taxpayers after completing their training in Syria, July 31 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mitchell Ryan)

Meanwhile, Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the U.S. military’s presence in Syria is an act of aggression and a violation of sovereignty.

In a speech to the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson outlined plans for the United States to remain in Syria long after the defeat of the radical Islamic State group.

“The training is designed to enhance security for displaced persons returning to their devastated communities. It is also essential so that ISIS cannot reemerge in liberated and ungoverned areas. This is not a new ‘army’ or conventional ‘border guard’ force,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The United States has led a coalition carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq since 2014, and the Pentagon said last month there are about 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria.

The Raqqa Internal Security Forces is part of the Syrian opposition formed in 2017, with support by the United States and Jordan, to handle the security around Raqqa, after the region’s conquest by the Islamic State.

The training of Syrian forces are said to be consistent with American objectives to ensure an enduring defeat of ISIS, facilitate stabilization efforts, and create the conditions that support the UN-led Geneva process.

The military campaign against ISIS in Syria is not over and heavy fighting is still underway in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, the Pentagon statement said.

“These security forces are internally-focused to prevent ISIS fighters from fleeing Syria and augment local security in liberated areas. These forces will protect the local population and help prevent ISIS from launching new attacks against the U.S. and its allies and partners, pending a longer-term political solution to the Syrian civil war in Geneva,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

“To date, through Coalition-enabled operations in Syria, ISIS has not reclaimed any of the areas they lost. We intend to keep it that way,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “We are keenly aware of the security concerns of Turkey, our Coalition partner and NATO ally. Turkey’s security concerns are legitimate. We will continue to be completely transparent with Turkey about our efforts in Syria to defeat ISIS and stand by our NATO ally in its counter-terrorism efforts.”

The U.S. and its partners in the Global Coalition remain unwavering in our shared commitment to defeat ISIS and stabilize Syria.

Ultimately, Syria must determine its own future through the political process outlined in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254.

With only a few months remaining before national and local elections in Iraq, politicians there are scrambling to collect campaign funds amid numerous accusations of corruption.

Some candidates collect ballots through sectarian instigation, fake land prizes, or simply by buying the allegiance of voters. These methods have became a routine for the major Shia parties, like the new Iranian militias in Iraq and Syria and the former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition.

Iraqi citizens are suffering from harsh economic conditions, security forces harassment, sectarian genocide and unlawful arrests by terrorists.

Coalition partners will continue to support the Iraqi security forces to “root out and destroy” the remaining terrorists with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, said Marine Corps Brig. Gen. James F. Glynn, deputy commanding general of Special Operations Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.

“The campaign against ISIS has resulted in over 4.5 million people in Iraq liberated from the evil of ISIS,” Glynn said, a day after the double suicide bombing in Tayaran Square killed more than two dozen people in a Baghdad market. “We congratulate the government of Iraq on their success, and are proud to stand beside them.”

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