MESOP Arguments & Analysis – “Revisiting Train-and-Equip in Syria to Clear the Manbij Pocket” (Andrea Taylor & Aaron Stein, War on the Rocks)

“For the immediate task of ‘defeating and degrading’ ISIL, the SDF’s utility as a ground force in Kurdish-majority areas has proved to be a successful formula. The SDF has expressed a sustained interest in taking the cities of Manbij and Jarablus from ISIL, before continuing west to link up with the isolated PYD run territory of Efrin in Syria’s northeast. It is unclear if the YPG has the requisite strength to fight a two-front offensive against ISIL, on its western front line as well as its 115-mile front line between Margadeh and Ain Issa.

Moreover, even if the YPG had the ability to take and hold territory from ISIL in these two areas, its doing so could come at the expense of the U.S.-Turkish relationship. There are also concerns that a heavy Kurdish presence in the pocket would exacerbate ethnic tensions and further undermine the broader effort to defeat ISIL. So, what other options are available to the United States to drive a stake in the heart of ISIL’s self-proclaimed caliphate? The United States and Turkey are currently working together to arm various Arab- and Turkmen- majority rebel groups in this area, but these groups do not possess an integrated command structure, which limits their battlefield effectiveness. At the same time, U.S. forces do not operate west of the Euphrates River, largely over concerns for their being taken hostage and turned over to groups like Jabhat al-Nusra. For these reasons, the Arab and Turkmen groups in the area that do receive U.S. support are not able to fully leverage the benefits of American airpower. The presence of groups hostile to the United States also rules out the deployment of special operators in the area, further limiting the effectiveness of the air campaign.” Read all :*Mideast%20Brief