It appears that Mike Cernovich, who earlier this week wrote that Trump's national security advisor, Gen. H.R.McMaster, was planning on sending as many as 150,000 troops to Syria, may have been right again. According to Bloomberg commentator Eli Lake, who has now made a habit of confirming Cernovich "conspiracy theories" (he did so previously with the Susan Rice scoop), Trump may be on the verge of escalating the proxy war in Syria by sending anywhere between 10,000 and 50,000 troops on the ground, and - if Cernovich is indeed correct - as much as three times more.
Per Lake, after U-turning on attacking Syria last week and on a variety of economic policies yesterday, the Donald Trump's "biggest foreign policy surprise may be yet to come." Specifically, he says that McMaster, has been quietly pressing his colleagues to question the underlying assumptions of a draft war plan against the Islamic State that would maintain only a light U.S. ground troop presence in Syria." McMaster's critics inside the administration say he wants to send tens of thousands of ground troops to the Euphrates River Valley. His supporters insist he is only trying to facilitate a better interagency process to develop Trump's new strategy to defeat the self-described caliphate that controls territory in Iraq and Syria."
To be sure, there have been ground troops, typically special forces, in Syria since 2014, when Barack Obama famously flip-flopped on his own promise of "no more boots on the ground", first in Iraq and then the broader region. However, the U.S. presence on the ground has been much smaller and quieter than more traditional military campaigns, particularly for Syria. As Lae puts it, "It's the difference between boots on the ground and slippers on the ground."
Well, the boots are coming, even if that means Trump gets to flip on yet another promise: Trump told Fox Business this week that that would not be his approach to fighting the Syrian regime: "We're not going into Syria," he said.
According to Gen. McMaster "we are", and it's only a matter of time.
As Lake explains, McMaster himself has found resistance to a more robust ground troop presence in Syria. In two meetings since the end of February of Trump's national security cabinet, known as the principals' committee, Trump's top advisers have failed to reach consensus on the Islamic State strategy. The White House and administration officials say Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford and General Joseph Votel, who is in charge of U.S. Central Command, oppose sending more conventional forces into Syria.
An interesting aside: according to a Lake source, Stephen Bannon had "derided" McMaster to his colleagues as trying to start a new Iraq War. Bannon's opposition to yet another US conflict - one which would have the clear goal of replacing the Assad regime - may explain why the former Breitbart head is on his way out.
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So where in the process is the McMaster "ground war" plan currently? Lake reports that it is still in its early stages.
Because Trump's national security cabinet has not reached consensus, the Islamic State war plan is now being debated at the policy coordinating committee, the interagency group hosted at the State Department of subject matter experts that prepares issues for the principals' committee and deputies' committee, after which a question reaches the president's desk for a decision.