TSI’s

Trump Administration Syria Policy (TASP)

Tracker

TSI’s Trump Administration Syria Policy (TASP) tracker lists relevant US political and military developments since the start of the Trump Administration in January 2017. The TASP tracker will make it easier for analysts, agencies, journalists, and others to answer the question: what is America’s Syria policy during the Trump Administration? The TASP tracker will be updated frequently with new events. When using the tracker, keep in mind the following:

  • Visit the TABLE KEY for descriptions of our event classification labels.
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  • Want to know what Donald Trump said about Syria during the 2016 presidential election? Check out our Trump Candidate Archive.
Date (dd.mm.yyyy)EventDescriptionEvent CategoryEvent TypeEvent Subject/TargetSourceAnalysis
27.09.2017US Ambassador to the UN made statement on Assad regime after monthly Security Council briefingFollowing the monthly humanitarian and political briefing at the UN Security Council, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley made a statement decrying the continued refusal of the Syrian regime to negotiate in good faith. She said the "only lasting solution in Syria - the only way to end the violence and defeat terrorism - is through a political transition, one that does not allow Iranian influence to replace ISIS or Assad in power." Haley condemned the Syrian government for blocking aid convoys and continuing to attack medical facilities and civilian centers, in addition to condemning Russia for supporting the Syrian government. PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionUSUN
22.09.2017Special Presidential Envoy for the US-led Coalition briefed the press on anti-ISIS campaignPresidential Envoy Brett McGurk gave a briefing following a ministerial meeting of US-led Coalition members on the sidelines of the UNGA in which he gave updates on the “extraordinary” progress made against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. He also noted that the US has not changed its rules of engagement or the precision of strikes. He said they are making sure that military efforts are followed by humanitarian and stabilization efforts, and have a team of diplomats and experts on the ground working on these issues every day. He noted that the team had been there for about three months. McGurk said that the al-Raqqa operation was near its end, and that the Coalition has a plan for demining the area and returning water, electricity. He added that they had faith in the temporary al-Raqqa Civilian Council as an interim step towards stability. In response to a question about the power of the Assad government, McGurk said that there were no plans to return areas liberated from ISIS to the Syrian government, and they would remain under control of local authorities pending a longer-term political settlement. He also noted that US Secretary Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov had met while at UNGA and discussed de-confliction efforts in Syria, saying that there had been a “significant improvement on the ground” in terms of mutual understanding and mitigating the risks of a clash. He also noted that the US fully supported what Turkey was doing to manage the al-Qaeda threat in Idlib.PolicyCommentISISState Dept
04.12.2017White House officials briefed reporters on internal assessment of Syria White House officials, speaking anonymously shared internal US government assessments that Assad lacks the strength to impose authority on even the territory it currently controls, and that even with the support of allies they cannot afford to rebuild the country. The officials told reports that only the Geneva process can lead to a sustainable solution, and parallel Russian efforts were instead aimed at cementing Assad in power. They said the US and the EU agree not to fund reconstruction in Assad-held areas, and stopping Iran from entrenching in Syria was a key goal. PolicyCommentConflict ResolutionBloomberg
04.12.2017National Security Adviser commented on Iranian forces in SyriaDuring a panel at the Reagan Defense Forum, White House National Security Adviser HR McMaster said that “About 80 percent of Assad fighters are Iranian proxies in Syria to establish a land bridge over into the Mediterranean." McMaster also warned of Iran's hegemonic intentions in the Middle East.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionReagan Foundation
30.11.2017State Department says US not "nation-building" in SyriaDuring a press briefing, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the US is not "in the business of nation-building," clarifying that the US will focus on stabilization and humanitarian assistance in Syria, not long-term reconstruction as it engaged in previously. PolicyCommentUS ActionState Dept.
30.11.2017US Marines to return home after al-Raqqa operationCJTF-OIR announced that the 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment who provided partner support for the al-Raqqa operation was ordered to leave Syria and their replacements were called off. Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga called the draw down a “sign of real progress in the region.”MilitaryOperationUS ActionCENTCOM
27.11.2017Pentagon spokesperson commented on US support for KurdsPentagon spokesperson Eric Pahon said the US is “reviewing pending adjustments to the military support provided to our Kurdish partners,” but did not say that all supplies would be cut off as described by the Turkish Foreign Minister. Pahon implied that the “adjustments” would be based on battlefield requirements to keep ISIS from returning.PolicyCommentPartner SupportReuters
26.11.2017State Department statement on Riyadh II opposition conferenceState Department spokesperson Heather Nauert released a statement on the success of the Riyadh II opposition conference, and voiced support for their new unified negotiating coalition. Nauert commended Saudi Arabia for organizing the conference, and Nasr Hariri on his new role as General Coordinator of the negotiating committee for the next Geneva talks.PolicyCommentConflict ResolutionState Dept.
24.11.2017Trump discussed arming Kurds during call with Turkish PresidentDuring a phone call, President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reaffirmed the US-Turkish partnership, particularly in regards to fighting terrorism, and discussed the need for a solution to the conflict in Syria. President Trump informed Erdogan of "pending adjustments to military support" to US partners on the ground, according to the White House readout. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who listened in on the call, stated President Trump said that the US would cut its supply of arms to Kurdish forces in Syria.PolicyCommentPartner SupportWashington Post
White House
20.11.2017SDF handed over control of 3 neighborhoods in al-Raqqa to RISFCJTF-OIR announced that the neighborhoods of Mashlab, al-Jazrah and al-Tayar were turned over from the US-backed SDF to the Raqqa Internal Security Force (RISF). The statement clarified that the RISF is a local security unit that consists of local volunteers and answers to the Raqqa Civil Council. MilitaryCommentPartner ActionCENTCOMNote: Both the Raqqa Civil Council (RCC) and the Raqqa Internal Security Force (RISF) were created and run primarily by the Kurdish YPG forces that made up the majority of the SDF. There is local concern that neither the RCC nor RISF are representative of the local population of al-Raqqa.
27.06.2017US Department of Defence reports 594 total personnel deployed in Syria for March 2017In its quarterly "Military and Civilian Personnel by Service/Agency by State/Country" report, the Department of Defense reported there are 439 active duty military personnel in Syria. Including reserves and civillians, there are 594 total.MilitaryOperationUS ActionDMDC
11.08.2017US Department of Defence reports 1,251 total personnel deployed in Syria for June 2017In its quarterly "Military and Civilian Personnel by Service/Agency by State/Country" report, the Department of Defense reported there are 1,103 active duty military personnel in Syria. Including reserves and civillians, there are 1,251 total.MilitaryOperationUS ActionDMDC
17.11.2017US Department of Defence reports 1,723 total personnel deployed in Syria for September 2017In its quarterly "Military and Civilian Personnel by Service/Agency by State/Country" report, the Department of Defense reported there are 1,547 active duty military personnel in Syria. Including reserves and civillians, there are 1,723 total.MilitaryOperationUS ActionDMDC
16.11.2017US-led Coalition partner Maghawir al-Thawra killed nine ISIS fighters near al-TanfAccording to a CJTF-OIR press release, the US's Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO) partner Maghawir al-Thawra (MaT) killed nine ISIS fighters and destroyed several vehicles with Coalition support after the fighters penetrated Syrian regime lines and tried to launch a terrorist attack in the zone around al-Tanf. The statement said that US-led Coalition officials utilized the de-confliction line with Russia to ensure the attacking forces were not part of the Assad Coalition. MilitaryPartner ActionISISCENTCOM
16.11.2017US Secretary of Defense commented on US long-term role in SyriaIn comments to reporters, US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said the US is committed to stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Syria. Mattis said that they are trying to move discussions out of Astana and back to Geneva under the UN-mandated political negotiations led by Staffan de Mistura, aiming towards an election with international observers. He suggested that only when that plan has traction could the US leave Syria. Additionally, Mattis stated he was surprised at the speed and number of refugees returning to Syria, saying it is "the only real surprise we've seen."PolicyCommentUS ActionDept. of Defense
16.11.2017Department of Defense officials commented on Syria effortsDuring a press briefing, General McKenzie rejected recent Russian claims of the US aiding ISIS, and said they were “not helpful as we pursue what could be a mutual objective of the destruction of ISIS in the Euphrates River Valley.” He also said they were approaching the endgame with ISIS in Syria. Gen. McKenzie also said that the US had about 503 troops in Syria. Department of Defense spokesperson Dana White clarified that the US will play a role in stabilization efforts in a post-ISIS Syria, after being asked on Russia's claim America is an occupying force in the country. PolicyCommentUS ActionDept. of Defense
16.11.2017US Ambassador to the UN explanation of vote on Russian draft Resolution on JIM mandateAt the UN Security Council, US Ambassador Nikki Haley made a statement after Russia vetoed the extention of the UN-OPCW JIM, which was tasked with investigating chemical weapons attacks in Syria and identifying the perpetrators. Her statement cast heavy blame on Russia for blocking real investigations when they find that Assad is responsible and for vetoing the resolution's renewal.PolicyUNUNUS-UN
16.11.2017US Ambassador to the UN explanation of vote on US draft Resolution on JIM mandateAt the UN Security Council, US Ambassador Nikki Haley made a statement after a vote on Russia's alternative Resolution put forward to renew the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) into chemical attacks, but with changes that would effecitvely neuter the investigative abilities of the mechanims. Haley said the US took the JIM seriously, but Russia made its alternative Resolution without consultation and with the aim of undermining the JIM's independence or do reporting. Haley said that Russia was telling the whole world that chemical weapons were okay to use, and that the Council should be embarrased. She warned: "the next chemical weapons attack is on your hands."PolicyUNUNUS-UNNote: The JIM was created to investigate chemical weapons attacks in Syria and identify perpetrators. This vote on Russia's alternative Resolution with "fixes" that would undermine the work of the JIM came the same day that Russia vetoed the annual renewal of the JIM, after it found the Assad government responsible for the April 2017 sarin attack in Khan Sheikhoun.
14.11.2017US Representatives expressed concern about Iranian influence in Syria to Secretary of State A bipartisan group of 41 US Representatives wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, urging the State Department to develop a strategy in Syria that counters Iranian influence in the region, prevents a permanent Iranian presence in Syria, blocks arms sales to Hezbollah, and protects key regional allies Jordan and Israel. The group had recently completed a trip to the Middle East where they heard concerns from Israel about the Iranian threat.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionFree Beacon
21.09.2017State Department expressed concern about civilian victims of Syrian and Russian airstrikes In a press statement, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that the US was “concerned” over reports of airstrike in Idlib and Hama provinces on 19-20 September that killed medical personnel and damaged medical facilities, equipment, and civil defense centers. She said the strikes fit “an all-too-familiar pattern” of attacks against medical facilities and civilians perpetrated by the Syrian government and Russia.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionState Dept.
21.09.2017State Department announced more aid for SyriaState Department announced the US would increase its humanitarian aid to Syria by $697 million, with almost $516 million of that going inside of the country, and the rest to refugees in the region.PolicyCommentHumanitarianState Dept.
21.09.2017CJTF-OIR Spokesman commented on increased US-Russia "deconfliction" measures During a press briefing on Iraq and Syria, Col. Ryan Dillon said that US and Russian military officials met face-to-face earlier in the week to "discuss and expand" deconfliction measures, stressing the need to share operational graphics and locations as forces converge around Deir Ezzor and the risk of accidents increase. This meeting took place in the region, and was the first meeting of its sort. He said there may be follow up meetings in the same location.In response to a question, he said that there are three deconfliction lines: a ground deconfliction line, and air deconfliction line, and a commander deconfliction line where General Funk communicates with his Russian counterpart. He also said that the ground deconfliction line had been in place for over a month. On other topics: he said the decision to close al-Zaqaf base near al-Tanf was decided weeks ago and was determined by operational requirements and the progress of the campaign. Dillon also noted that the SDF had reached its initial objective as part of Operation Jazeera Storm, which was 20 km NE of Deir Ezzor city, and had begun backclearing.MilitaryCommentRussia CooperationCJTF-OIR
Dept. of Defense
The three deconfliction lines described by Col. Dillon is an expansion of Russian-US military communication. Previously there were only two lines (ground and air), and under the Obama Administration it was limited to one line of aerial deconfliction.
19.09.2017Syria Study Group proposal clears Senate Foreign Relations Committee The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a proposal from Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to establish a bipartisan Syria Study Group to undertake a comprehensive review of US policy in Syria. The Sasse-Shaheen amendment was added to the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act of 2017.PolicyLegislationBen Sasse
19.09.2017President Donald Trump mentioned Syria in address at UNDuring his speech to the UN General Assembly, Trump critized Iran's support of Bashar al-Assad and celebrated US-led Coalition efforts in Syria, claiming that the US "has achieved more against ISIS in the last eight months than it has in many, many years combined.” Trump said the US is seeking de-escalation in Syria and a "political solution that honors the will of the Syrian people." Trump also referred to the Syrian government as “the criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad.”PolicyCommentISISWhite House
White House
His comments on ISIS are notable because they are inaccurate. ISIS declared its existence in 2013, so the US has not been fighting it for many many years.
18.09.2017US hosted Ministerial meeting of 16 likeminded countries on SyriaActing Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield hosted a Ministerial meeting of 16 likeminded nations. The group put out a statement of unifying points towards which they will all work. The statement included 1) Strong support for the Geneva negotiations and a settlement through implementation of UNSCR 2254, 2) Recovery and reconstruction support was dependent on a credible political process, 3) De-escalation zones and the Astana process all contribute to the foundation of a political solution, 4) ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra must be defeated, 5) Progress in Iraq is critical to stability in Syria. During a press conference after the meeting, Satterfield reiterated that the 14 likeminded would not contribute to “a legitimization or authenticization or to the reconstruction of Syria” without a credible political process. He also stressed the idea that a political process had to begin, and said that the end goal was an “intact, nonpartitioned, independent Syria, a Syria which is not a proxy for any external state – Iran or anyone else.” He said that they were in a dramatically better place then last year, and could therefore focus on a political track. In response to a question about Bashar al-Assad he said that many of the parties in the room did not believe that most Syrians wanted Assad to stay, and that he had lost his legitimacy and right to be in power.PolicyMeetingConflict ResolutionState Dept.
State Dept.
18.09.2017US Secretary of State met with Russian Foreign MinisterUS Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to discuss Syria. According to the State Department, they recommitted to deconfliction efforts, reducing violence, and creating conditions for Geneva talks to continue pursuant to 2254. According to the Russian readout, their discussion of a settlement to the Syrian conflict included counterterrorism and the implementation of decisions made in Astana on 14-15 September.PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationState Dept.
Russia MFA
16.09.2017US General proposed expansion of de-confliction channel with RussiaChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford held a call with his Russian counterpart, General Valery Gerasimov, following Russian airstrikes that injured US-backed SDF members east of the Euphrates River. Dunford reportedly proposed that the Russian and American commanders in charge of forces in Syria could use the de-confliction line established in 2015 to "address the fact that the enemy moves freely back and forth across the Euphrates River." This represents an elevation and expansion of the “de-confliction” channel, which was previously staffed by Russian and American colonels who alerted one another about air operation. Dunford told reporters that de-confliction was more difficult in the past several months as forces converged on ISIS in Deir Ezzor, saying “it couldn’t be more complex and crowded in that area.” Dunford said the de-confliction channel “didn’t work” when Russian aircraft targeted an area where SDF and international advisors were present. Russia has denied responsibility for the strike. MilitaryMeetingRussia CooperationWashington Post
16.09.2017CJTF-OIR statement about a Russian hitting US-backed SDF forces near Deir EzzorCJTF-OIR put out a news release announcing that a Russian airstrike east of the Euphrates injured several members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). According to the statement, the targeted site was known by Russia to contain SDF and US-led Coalition advisors. Foreign advisers in the Coalition were present but not injured.MilitaryCommentPartnerDept. of Defense
15.09.2017Department of Defense detained American citizen in SyriaIn a statement, the US Department of Defense stated that it was legally detaining a US citizen who was a known enemy combatant in Syria. The American reporteldy turned himself in to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces earlier in the week, who then turned him over to US-led coalition forces. MilitaryCommentDirect ActionDept. of Defense
14.09.2017US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had a phone conversationAccording to a Russian Ministry readout, Tillerson and Lavrov had a phone call in which they spoke about US-Russian cooperation in resolving the Syria crisis, emphasizing de-escalation zones. PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationRussia MFA
13.11.2017CJTF-OIR spokesperson briefing on evacuation of ISIS fighters from al-Raqqa, Russian propaganda, and other items.During a press briefing, CJT-OIR spokesperson Col. Ryan Dillon gave updates on the anti-ISIS efforts in Iraq and Syria and US support for local partners, and answered a number of questions on Syria operations from reporters. He described stabilization efforts in areas taken by ISIS, coordinated through the US Dept. of State’s Syrian Transition Assistance and Response Team (START). According to Dillon the Raqqa Internal Security Force (RISF), trained by the US-led Coalition, had 2,000 members, and the US-led Coalition was supporting the Raqqa Civil Council to provide local services. He also noted that nearly 8,000 civilians were able to return to their homes in Mishlib after the SDF, supported by the US-led Coalition, cleared the area. -- In response to a question about reports from the BBC that ISIS fighters were allowed to leave al-Raqqa the prior month. Dillon said that it "was not a secret," directing the reporter to prior statements about the deal negotiated by the al-Raqqa Civil Council, the SDF, and the tribal elders to help save civilian lives. He reiterated that the US was not an active participant in the discussions. -- Dillon described some of the details of the evacuation deal, which he says included biometric screening of all departing military-aged males, which included less than 300 out of 3,500 evacuees. This screening reportedly led to the detention of four foreign fighters by the SDF. There were no US-led Coalition forces present for the screening. Dillon said he could not comment on BBC reports of buses and trucks carrying tons of weaponry were allowed out of al-Raqqa. -- In response to another question, Dillon said that he believed there were no ISIS fighters in US custody, and that all ISIS detainees were held by local partners like the SDF or the Iraqi security forces (ISF). -- In response to a question about whether the US-led Coalition has a responsibility to protect its partners on the ground fighting against ISIS, like the Kurds, Dillon said “I would say yes, you know, we have shown and we have proven that we will support our partners and that partner force is the Syrian Democratic Forces.” -- In response to a question about Russian accusations of US and Coalition forces helping ISIS around Albu Kamal, Dillon said “the Russian Ministry of Defense statements are about as accurate as their air campaign, and I think that is a reason for them to start coming out with their latest barrage of lies… almost anything that comes out of the Russian MOD is suspect and inaccurate.” He also described setbacks the Russians were facing and implied that they lied about the US to deflect from their own issues. -- Col. Dillon deflected a number of questions about reports that Iranian proxy militias fighting with the ISF – a US partner – had crossed the border into Syria around Albu Kamal.MilitaryCommentPartner ActionDept of Defense
15.11.2017Trump Tweet about UNSC vote on UN-OPCW JIM renewalA few hours before the UNSC vote on the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM), Donald Trump tweeted his support of the US resolution: "Need all on the UN Security Council to vote to renew the Joint Investigative Mechanism for Syria to ensure that Assad Regime does not commit mass murder with chemical weapons ever again."PolicyCommentUN@realDonaldTrump
04.11.2017US-led Coalition killed senior ISIS official near Albu KamalA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abdellah Hajjiaou, an ISIS external operations plotter, near Albu Kamal, Deir Ezzor.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCENTCOM
03.11.2017US-led Coalition killed senior ISIS official near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abu Yazin, an ISIS senior leader and weapons facilitator, near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCENTCOM
11.11.2017Joint US-Russia statement on SyriaAfter meeting on the sidelines of the APEC conference in Vietnam, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin released a joint statement on Syria. The statement expressed satisfaction with “successful U.S.-Russia enhanced de-confliction efforts” in accelerating the fall of ISIS, and agreed to maintain open military channels of communication “to help ensure the safety of both U.S. and Russian forces and de-confliction of partnered forces.” The statement expressed mutual support for a political solution through the Geneva process, including constitutional reform and free and fair elections as called for under UNSCR 2254. They also noted the importance of de-escalation areas “as an interim step to reduce violence in Syria, enforce ceasefire agreements, facilitate unhindered humanitarian access, and set the conditions for the ultimate political solution to the conflict.” The statement also welcomed the “Memorandum of Principles” concluded on 8 November in Amman to reinforce their southern ceasefire initiative.PolicyCommentRussia CooperationState Dept
08.11.2017US General commented on ISIS migration from Syria to AfghanistanIn a press briefing, commander of Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan General Nicholson said Resolute Support's "number one goal [concerning ISIS] is to prevent the migration of any Islamic State from Syria or Iraq to Afghanistan."MilitaryCommentISISDept of Defense
08.11.2017Joint statement with European allies on the Syrian government's use of chemical weaponsAfter the UN Security Council was briefed on the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism's (JIM) most recent report findings, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a joint statement along with his British, French, and German counterpartys of condemning the Syrian government for its use of sarin gas in Khan Sheikoun, and expressed support for the OPCW-JIM's professionalism and independence in conducting investigations. The statement also condemned ISIS for its use of sulfur mustard gas in Umm Hawsh. Additionally, the statement urged the UN Security Council to maintain the JIM and hold accountable those responsible for using chemical weapons. PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionState Dept
07.11.2017US Ambassador to the UN remarked on OPCW-UN JIM chemical attack investigationsDuring a UN Security Council meeting on chemical weapons use in Syria, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley reiterated recent comments on the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism's (JIM) report findings that the Syrian government was responsible for using sarin gas in Khan Sheikhoun and made a strong case for renewing the mandate of the JIM, pointing out Russian efforts to undermine the body and its work.PolicyCommentUNUSUN
07.11.2017CJTF-OIR Air Force general comments on operations along Syria-Iraq border and Russian deconflictionDuring a press briefing, US Air Force General Andrew Croft said Iraqi Security Forces will not cross the border into Syria following their capture of the al-Qaim border crossing, despite earlier reports of such activity. Croft also iterated that US forces deconflict with the Russian air force in Deir Ezzor, where there has been an increase in long-range bomber strikes, as well as launches from ships in the Mediterranean. In response to a question about close calls with Russian jets, Croft responded "The coordination, actually -- and its really just deconfliction -- has been very professional at this point." Later adding "there is no coordination, at least militarily, in the counter-ISIS fight."MilitaryCommentPartner ActionDept of DefenseNote: The US military is prohibited from military-to-military cooperation with Russia under the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) unless a waiver is received. There have been increasing signs throughout 2017 that "deconfliction" might have crossed this line although the military has continued to insist that it is just deconfliction.
03.11.2017CJTF-OIR announced capture of al-Qaim border crossing with Iraq from ISISIn a written statement, the US-ledCoalition congratulated Iraqi Security Forces for the capture of al-Qaim in Anbar province of Iraq, and a key Syrian-Iraqi border crossing.MilitaryCommentPartner ActionCENTCOM
03.11.2017Senior US official allegedly met with Assad national security chief in DamascusAccording to media reports, a senior US official met with the Assad government's national security chief, Ali Mamlouk, in Damascus. Reportedly, the US official brought up the issue of missing American citizens in Syria, including CIA operatives. During the meeting Mamlouk reportedly protested the US presence in Syria, calling it "occupation," to which the US official responded that “our presence is advisory and we are fighting Daesh."PolicyMeetingAssad CoalitionAl-Akhbar;
Reuters
02.11.2017US Secretary of State spoke to Russian Foreign Minister regarding SyriaAccording to the Russian government, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had a phone call in which they spoke about the activities of the OPCW-UN JIM, terrorism, and the need for a political settlement in Syria. Lavrov also criticized the JIM report, stressing the need to not "politicize" the UN-OPCW findings.PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationRussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
01.11.2017State Department amended Abdallah Azzam Brigade terrorist designation to include its Syrian operationsThe State Department amended its Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation of the Abdallah Azzam Brigades to include the Marwan Hadid Brigades, the name that the group operated under in Syria. According to the State Department, the Marwan Hadid Brigades has carried out attacks with the designated FTO Nusrah Front group and engaged at a training facility in Syria.PolicySanctions / FTOState Dept
01.11.2017White House statement on UN-OPCW investigation into chemical weapons attacks The White House released a statement imploring the UN Securtity Council to renew the mandate of the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) tasked with investigating responsibility for chemical attacks in Syria. The statement also condemned Russia's efforts to undermine the JIM, calling Russia's protection of the Syrian government egregious and "an utter lack of respect for international norms."PolicyCommentUNWhite HouseNote: This statement came weeks ahead of the UN Security Council's annual vote to renew the mandate of the JIM, which Russia did end up vetoing, along with several additional efforts by UNSC members. The JIM mandate then expired on 17 November 2017, you can read more here: https://www.un.org/press/en/2017/sc13076.doc.htm
31.10.2017US Secretary of State met with Russian Ambassador at Department of StateSecretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov at the Department of State. They discussed ISIS's defeat in Syria and the US commitment to the Geneva peace talks as the best way of creating a political solution to the Syrian conflict. PolicyMeetingRussian CooperationState Dept
31.10.2017US forces relocated a minor to safety from Syria to IraqAccording to a Pentagon statement, US forces recently relocated a minor from Syria to Iraq. Unnamed US officials further told Reuters that this was the 15-year old pregnant girl who was interviewed by CBS near al-Raqqa earlier in October 2017. In that CBS interview she said that she had been brought to Syria from Kansas years earlier by her father, who was now a strong ISIS supporter. The exact date of the relocation is unknown.MilitaryCommentUS ActionReutersHere is the CBS article in question:
CBS
09.10.2017US-led Coalition killed senior ISIS official in Albu KamalA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abu Asia, a UAS facilitator, in Abu Kamal, Deir Ezzor.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCENTCOM
03.10.2017US-led Coalition killed senior ISIS official near al-HaidinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abu Walid al-Qamishli, Al Haidin, Deir Ezzor. Al-Qamishli was a commander responsible for a network of fighters in Hasakah Province, MilitaryDirect ActionISISCENTCOM
03.10.2017US-led Coalition killed senior ISIS official near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abu Mahmud al-Halabi near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Al-Halabi was an ISIS administrative official.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCENTCOM
02.10.2017US-led Coalition killed senior ISIS official in MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abu Hajir al-Iraqi, an ISIS military procurement official involved in R&D, in Mayadin, Deir Ezzor.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCENTCOM
29.09.2017US-led Coalition killed senior ISIS official in MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abu Walid al-Shami in Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Al-Shami was a weapons R&D developer for ISIS.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCENTCOM
25.09.2017US-led Coalition killed senior ISIS official in MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Bin Ladin Dhu al-Fiqar in Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Al-Fiqar was a senior ISIS military commander.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCENTCOM
26.09.2017US-led Coalition killed senior ISIS official in MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Shahin, an ISIS ground commander, in Mayadin, Deir Ezzor.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCENTCOM
20.09.2017US-led Coalition killed senior ISIS official in MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Hajji Ibrahim in Deir Ezzor. Ibrahim was a senior ISIS military officer involved in procurement and R&D.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCENTCOM
16.09.2017US-led Coalition killed senior ISIS official in MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abu Ahmad al-Muhajir in Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Al-Muhajir was a senior ISIS military officer involved in procurement and R&D .MilitaryDirect ActionISISCENTCOM
27.10.2017State Department spokesperson commented on UN-OPCW report on Khan Sheikhoun chemical attackIn a statement, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) report confirms that the Syrian government is responsible for the Khan Sheikhoun attack, and that the UN Security Council "must send a clear message that the use of chemical weapons by anyone will not be tolerated." Nauert criticized Russia for eliminating and undermining the UN-OPCW investigation, therefore protecting the Syrian government from accountability for its crimes. PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionState Dept
30.10.2017CJTF-OIR spokesman commented on SDF fight against ISIS in Syria-Iraq border regionUS-led Coalition spokesman Ryan Dillon that they are seeing a "buildup of (IS) defenses in both al-Qaim and in Albu Kamal," along the Syria-Iraq border. While Dillon said Abu Kamal is "definitely" a target for the Coalition, it is up to SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) leadership to execute the ground assault. According to Dillon, the current SDF priority is shoring up their positions at the al-Omar oil field in Deir Ezzor. MilitaryCommentISISReuters
27.10.2017Federal court sentenced American ISIS recruit to 20 years in prison28-year old American Mohamad Jamal Khweis was sentenced to 20 years in prison for material support for ISIS. Khweis was convicted by a federal jury on 7 June. PolicyJudicialISISJustice Dept
07.06.2017Federal jury convicted American of providing material support to ISIS28-year old American Mohamad Jamal Khweis was convicted by a federal jury of providing material support to ISIS. Khweis had traveled to Turkey before crossing the border into Syria, joining ISIS recruits in al-Raqqa in late 2015. After approximately three months with ISIS, Khweis was captured by Kurdish forces in Tal Afar, Iraq. PolicyJudicialISISJustice Dept
26.10.2017US Secretary of State statement on Assad and political transitionDuring a press conference in Geneva, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called his talk with UN Special Envoy de Mistura "fruitful" and reiterated US support for the Geneva process called for un UNSC Resolution 2254. With regards to Asad, Tillerson said the US want a "whole and unified Syria with no role for Bashar al-Assad in the government," and that "The reign of the Assad family is coming to an end, and the only issue is how should that be brought about." He added that the Trump administration does not view Assad's departure as a prerequisite for a political transition process in Syria, but as an outcome of such a process. Tillerson also mentioned he does not believe Iran deserves credit for the territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria, saying they "took advantage of the situation." He said the Russian government on the other hand had been successful, through its aerial support of pro-government forces.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionState Dept
26.10.2017UN Ambassador to UN commented on UN-OPCW chemical weapons attack reportUS Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley released a statement condemning the use of chemical weapons in an attack on civilians in Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017, which the UN-OPCW Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) confirmed was conducted by the Syrian military. In her statement, Ambassador Haley called on nations to stop protecting the regime and work with investigators to uphold international norms against chemical weapons. Haley also stated those who deny or cover-up such attacks are "no better than the dictators and terrorists who use these terrible weapons."PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionUSUN
24.10.2017CJTF-OIR spokesperson denied allegations of airstrikes in Deir EzzorUS-led Coalition spokesperson Colonel Ryan Dillon denied allegations from Syrian state media that a US-led Coalition struck the government-controlled Qusur district of Deir Ezzor city and killed more than a dozen people. Dillon noted that only Russian and Syrian aircraft were operating in the area at the time. MilitaryCommentUS Action@OIRSpox;
Reuters
21.10.2017President Donald Trump statement on the liberation of al-RaqqaPresident Trump released a statement announcing the liberation of al-Raqqa from ISIS, praising the efforts of the SDF and US-led Coalition forces and calling the "capture critical breakthrough in our worldwide campaign to defeat ISIS and its wicked ideology." In his statement, President Trump also announced a "new phase in which [the US] will support local security forces, de-escalate violence across Syria, and advance the conditions for lasting peace." Noting his campaign promise of defeating ISIS in Raqqa and Mosul, President Trump stated more progress had been made within the last several months than in the past several years.PolicyCommentISISWhite House
20.10.2017US Secretary of State statement on the liberation of al-RaqqaSecretary of State Rex Tillerson released a statement praising US-led Coalition forces and SDF partners, specifically the Syrian Arab Coalition, on the liberation of al-Raqqa. Tillerson noted the loss of life of US-led Coalition forces and SDF partners. He stressed that the fight against ISIS was not over, but said that the capture of al-Raqqa "marks the beginning of a new phase in the Syrian conflict." Additionally, Tillerson announced a new emphasis on conflict descalation in Syria, hoping to work within the framework of UNSC Resolution 2254 to reach a political transition that honors the will of the Syrian people. PolicyCommentPartner ActionState Dept
20.10.2017The US-led Coalition congratulated SDF on liberation of al-RaqqaThe US-led Coalition congratulate the SDF on their announcement of the liberation of al-Raqqa from ISIS, with the support of US-led Coalition airstrikes. Coalition Commander Lt. Gen. Paul E Funk II said the Coalition would continue to fight ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and continue facilitating humanitarian aid efforts. He also said that the liberated city "will return to local governance and leadership."PolicyCommentPartner ActionCENTCOM
19.10.2017US National Security Advisor spoke about US policy towards Iran and Syria at FDD National Security SummitSpeaking at the FDD National Security Summit, US National Security Advisor HR McMaster heavily criticized Russia and Iran for aiding the Assad government, saying their continued support has led to "a sectarian conflict that strengthens Islamist terrorists." He stressed that President Trump's new strategy towards Iran would consider among other thing, its continued support for the Assad government and its atrocities against the Syrian people. Mentioning the leverage the US-led Coalition has concerning reconstruction and Assad's political future, McMaster also said "We should ensure that not a dollar, not a dollar goes to reconstruct anything that is under the control of this brutal regime.”PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionDefend Democracy
19.10.2017US Defense officials commented on US policy in Syria after fall of al-RaqqaDuring a press briefing, Pentagon Spokesperson Dana White and Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. commented on the fall of al-Raqqa. Dana White dodged a question from a reporter about the SDF, the US's partners on the ground in Syria in the fight against ISIS. The reporter asked about the Kurdish YPG (which is the primary component of the US's SDF partners) dedicating their victory in al-Raqqa to PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and hanging his image in the central square. Dana White responded by saying: "We work with the SDF. And we work to help them focus on fighting ISIS. That is our sole responsibility. That's our sole commitment. And we'll continue to work by, with and through the SDF to ensure that we defeat ISIS." Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie mentioned that with the end stage of the caliphate in Raqqa, US forces would move down the Euphrates operating on both sides. PolicyCommentPartner ActionDept of DefenseNote: The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by the US.
17.10.2017State Department spokesperson commented on US-led Coalition role in post-ISIS al-RaqqaDuring a press conference, State Department spokesperson Heather Nuaert said after al-Raqqa city is captured from ISIS, the US and Coalition partners plan to demine and then restore basic services, nothing "It’s not the sort of the nation building that the U.S. Government previously engaged in in other countries." Beyond that, security and reconstruction will be turned over to local leaders and "to that host country." Nuart said the US supports the unity of Syria and a "credible political process...where we see the Syrians being governed by Syrian people who are respectful of human rights," but declined to characterize the current Syrian government as the legimate government. She also mentioned that the US is trying to cooperate with Russia in Syria on "areas where we can see eye-to-eye," such as ISIS, and pointed to the 2 July 2017 ceasefire as a success of that cooperation because it enabled the US-led Coalition's fight against ISIS. PolicyCommentUS Action
State Dept
These comments came in the final days of the US-led Coalition/SDF battle for al-Raqqa. Nuaert seemed to imply that the US would turn reconstruction of Raqqa over to the Syrian government in this statement.
17.10.2017CJTF-OIR Spokesman commented on ISIS defeat in RaqqaDuring a press briefing, US CJTF-OIR Spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon said the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have control of more than 90% of Raqqa, but expect to encounter some pockets of resistance as clearance operations continue. In response to a question from a reporter about what the US mission will be in Syria after Raqqa, Dillon said "it will be up to -- this is part of the "by, with and through" strategy -- it will be up to the [SDF] commander, General Mazlum, whether or not he reallocates forces to continue to push down into the Middle Euphrates River Valley where there still is ISIS-held territory." He also praised the SDF as a "very effective and capable partner." He said that the SDF ranks that defeated ISIS in Raqqa were predominantly Arab. Noted that Raqqa Internal Security Force, about 1,600 local recruits trained by Coalition forces, will remain in the city to provide security, not the SDF.MilitaryCommentISISDept. of Defense
DVIDS
Dillon's statement about leaving it up to the SDF commander whether to pursue ISIS into the Middle Euphrates River Valley is quite notable, as it is different from other claims that the US will fight ISIS until the end. This area towards Deir Ezzor and south is a zone that the Syrian government and its allies are trying to move into, and Dillon's statement may indicate that the US-led Coalition will allow the Russia and pro-Assad forces to take the lead.
13.10.2017President Donald Tump commented on Iran's role in the Syrian conflictDuring a statement on the US's Iran strategy in which Trump announced new sanctions against the IRGC, he stressed the role that Iran plays in Syria: "the Iranian regime has supported the atrocities of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and condoned Assad’s use of chemical weapons against helpless civilians, including many, many children." He also said the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) armed "the Syrian dictator" and supplied "proxies and partners with missiles and weapons to attack civilians in the region."PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionThe White House
14.10.2017US CJTF-OIR released a statement on the deal for a Raqqa evacuationThe CJTF-OIR statement explained that the US-led Coalition was not involved in a deal brokered by the (SDF-linked) Raqqa Civil Council and local tribal leaders for a convoy of vehicles carrying civilians to leave Raqqa city on 14 October. The statement said that all departing people would be screened by the SDF and although the Coalition was not involved in the deal, it “believes it will save innocent lives.” Coalition Director of Operations Brigadier General Jonathan Bragga said the Coalition does “not condone any arrangement that allows Daesh terrorists to escape Raqqah without facing justice.”PolicyCommentPartner ActionCJTF-OIRLocal reporting networks suggest that the agreements actually did involve deals to evacuate some ISIS fighters to Deir Ezzor, despite the CJTF-OIR denial. The US military had previously been highly critical of a deal made between Hezbollah and ISIS to to evacuate a convoy of ISIS fighters from the Lebanese border to Deir Ezzor.
12.10.2017Pentagon Spokesperson commented on anti-ISIS efforts in RaqqaDuring a DoD briefing, Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana White said the campaign to liberate Raqqa city from ISIS had entered its final stage. She said local forces had fought valiently and added that "The coalition will continue to strike ISIS wherever they are found."PolicyCommentISISDept. of Defense
C-SPAN
10.10.2017US CJTF-OIR released a statement on local discussions to save civilians in RaqqaThe brief CJTF-OIR statement said the (SDF-linked) Raqqa Civil Council and local tribal leaders were holding discussions "to determine the best way to enable civilians trapped by Daesh to exit the city," where some were being held by ISIS as human shields. The statement noted that anyone who fought for ISIS would face justice from local authorities.PolicyCommentPartner ActionCJTF-OIRLocal reporting networks indicated that these efforts by the SDF-linked Raqqa Civil Council involved direct negotiations with ISIS, potentially for the evacuation of ISIS fighters. There were reportedly decreases in US-led Coalition airstrikes during negotiations, suggesting that the US may have played a more supportive role in the talks than publicly acknowledged.
10.10.2017Second face-to-face de-confliction meeting between Russian and US commandersDuring a briefing on 17 OCT, CJTF-OIR Spokesmand Colonel Ryan Dillon said that a second "de-confliction" meeting between Russia and US commanders occurred approximately a week ago. He said that it was held outside of Iraq and Syria at around the one-star level of command. During the meeting they reportedly talked about further de-confliction and where both sides and their respective partners (the Assad Coalition, and the SDF) would go further down the Middle Euphrates River Valley near Deir Ezzor. (The date 10/10 is approximate).PolicyMeetingRussian CooperationDept. of Defense
DVIDS
The first such face-to-face meeting was held the previous month, and was reported during a press conference on 21 September 2017. These meetings are part of a significant increase and expansion of US-Russian "de-confliction" communications in 2017.
09.10.2017Pentagon Spokesman responds to Russian accusations Pentagon Spokesman Eric Pahon told a reporter that Russian accusations that the US was aiding ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria "absolutely ridiculous and untrue," and that they "represent a Russian and regime propaganda campaign to discredit the U.S. and our successful coalition fight against ISIS in Syria.”PolicyCommentRussian CooperationThe Defense Post
05.10.2017Possible US airstrike against Assad Coalition convoy within deconfliction zone around al-Tanf base A convoy of pro-government forces entered the 55 km deconfliction zone around al-Tanf base in the badiya area of southern Syria, near the Jordanian border. There are conflicting reports regarding the US response. A US-led Coalition spokesperson said that a six-vehicle convoy "entered and left the zone without need for deconfliction with Russian forces or strikes.” However several pro-opposition media outlets reported that the convoy was larger than six vehicles and that after refusing to stop for warning shots it was hit by US airstrikes, which damaged several vehicles and forced it to retreat. Maghaweer al-Thawra - the remaining vetted Syrian opposition group still being trained by the US at al-Tanf, posted on its Facebook page that the convoy was met with force. MilitaryDirect ActionUS ActionThe Defense Post
Maghwar al-Thawra Facebook
Al-Dorar al-Shamia
11.09.2017President Donald Trump considered a more aggressive strategy to counter Iran in SyriaAccording to Reuters, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security adviser HR McMaster, and other officials presented President Trump with a proposal for the US to respond more aggressively to Iranian forces and proxy militias. The undisclosed plan is reportedly aimed at increasing pressure on Iran to curb its ballistic missile program and support for militants around the region. The article notes that the plan did not include a direct escalation of US military activities in Syria because "security aides argued that a more muscular military response to Iranian proxies in Syria and Iraq would complicate the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State." Reuters claims that Mattis, McMaster, and the heads of US CENTCOM and SOCOM all oppose allowing commanders to respond more forcefully to provocations by Iran-backed forces.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionReuters
14.09.2017CJTF-OIR spokesperson commented on deconfliction in eastern Syria with RussiaDuring a press conference, Colonel Ryan Dillon said the US-led Coalition and Russian officials were deconflicting the air components and ground components at multiple levels, as Assad Coalition forces advanced on Deir Ezzor city from the western side of the Euphrates River while US-backed SDF approached from the east. He said the deconfliction line started south of Tabqa and ran west to east, parallel to the river and that it was holding. He noted that the SDF plan was not to go into Deir Ezzor city. When asked about the Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO) being trained out of al-Tanf Dillon said that they were not advancing on Deir Ezzor "And we will see if -- there's still more fighting to do." When asked, Dillon confirmed that the US-backed SDF and the Syrian government do have an open line of communication. Dillon also gave an update on the battle for Raqqa, saying that the US-backed SDF had encircled the ISIS fighters near the national hospital and controlled 63% of the city. Dillon noted the serious challenge posed by IEDs in the city, saying the quantity exceeded anything the SDF had seen before. Regarding the issue of trapped civilians, Dillon said that the SDF and US-led Coalition delivered leaflets and made loudspeaker announcements to tell civilians how to evacuate and said "these measures have been effective."PolicyCommentRussia CooperationDept. of Defense
13.09.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed senior ISIS official near MayadinCoalition airstrikes near Mayadin killed ISIS official Sajid Farooq Babar near Mayadin. Babar manufactured and modified drones for ISIS.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
14.09.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed senior ISIS official near MayadinCoalition airstrikes near Mayadin killed ISIS drone developer Abu Salman while traveling from Mayadin to Asharah and destroyed his workshop. MilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
12.09.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed senior ISIS official near MayadinCoalition airstrikes near Mayadin killed ISIS official Abu Muadh al-Tunisi near Mayadin. Al-Tunisi manufactured and modified drones for ISIS.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
09.09.2017CJTF-OIR released a statement on "Operation Jazeera Storm" The CJTF-OIR statement welcomed the 9 SEPT Syrian Arab Coalition's (SAC) announcement of "Operation Jazeera Storm" to clear Khabur Valley of ISIS. The statement noted that the SAC was multi-ethnic and that the Deir Ezzor Military Council will run the operation with support from the US-led Coalition "as part of their 'advise and assist' mission, providing equipment, training, intelligence and logistics support, precision fires and battlefield advice."PolicyCommentPartner SupportCENTCOM
08.09.2017CIA asked US-backed FSA opposition groups to withdraw from southern Syria into Jordan According to Reuters, two FSA-linked opposition groups - Osoud al-Sharqiya and Marty Ahmad Abdo Forces - received an official request from the CIA and other regional backers to withdraw from their area of operations in the southern Syria badia region into Jordan and return heavy weaponry, ceding the area to pro-Assad forces. The move follows the Trump administration's July decision to end the CIA train-and-equip program which began in 2013. Pro-government al-Masdar news reported that the move was part of a deal between Russia, Jordan, and the US that would give the Assad Coalition control of all of the badiya area with the exception of the US-occupied al-Tanf base, but this has not been corroborated by more credible sources.PolicyOperationPartner SupportReuters
Zaman Al Wasl
Some have viewed the decision to end the program and call on opposition forces to withdraw as an effort by the Trump administration to ingratiate itself with Russia.
07.09.2017President Donald Trump commented on US efforts against ISIS in SyriaIn a briefing with the Kuwaiti Emir, Trump said the US has "very little to do with Syria other than killing ISIS. What we do is kill ISIS.... We have done better in eight months of my presidency than the previous eight years against ISIS." He also said ISIS was "rapidly disappearing" because of the efforts of the US military. PolicyCommentISISThe White HouseNotable first because Trump emphasizes US policy in Syria is solely to combat ISIS, and second because the timeframe of eight years is longer than the period of time ISIS has existed. ISIS first emerged in 2013.
08.09.2017Trump Admininstration released court-ordered documents on legal justification for bombing Syrian government airbase in April 2017The Trump Administration released 60 pages of documents to 'Protect Democracy' after a court ordered it to respond to the groups' 7 April 2017 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents on legal justification of the 6 April 2017 missile strikes against the Syrian government's Shayrat airbase. Federal agencies initially denied or ignored the request prior to the court decision. The documents eventually released did not contain legal justifications, with large amounts of information redacted.PolicyCommentUS ActionProtect Democracy
The Intercept
04.09.2017US-led Coalition airstrikes killed 2 prominent ISIS leaders near Mayadin, Deir EzzorUS-led Coalition airstrikes killed weapons research leader Abu Anas al-Shami and senior drone pilot Junaid ur Rehman. Al-Shami procured explosives, built IEDs, and planned bombs for use in external attacks. Rehman was a drone pilot, trainer, and engineer, and was killed in an airstrike in the village of al-AsharaMilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
07.09.2017US-led Coalition Spokesperson commented on the stranded ISIS convoy during a press briefing During a press briefing, Colonel Ryan Dillon said the US was monitoring the remaining 11-bus ISIS convoy stranded in the desert during an evacuation deal between ISIS and pro-government forces. Dillon said the US-led Coalition had not struck the convoy but had struck individuals who wandered away from the convoy, "as soon as they get far enough away from the buses" and those that approached the convoy to link up, and would continue to do so. He noted that the US-led Coalition has not blocked food or water to the convoy, which included civilians. He also stated that "we will not allow this armed terrorist convoy to link up with fellow ISIS fighters in the Euphrates River valley." Dillon also said that they had used the deconfliction line around 31 August to recommend to Russia that the civilians be separated from the fighters in the convoy.PolicyDirect ActionISISDept. of DefenseNote: Dillon claimed the US would prevent the convoy from linking up with ISIS in Deir Ezzor, but ultimately the convoy did pass through. Additionally, Dillon noted the use of the deconfliction line for recommendations on dealing with civilian in the convoy - traditionally it had been used for aircraft deconfliction.
31.08.2017CJTF-OIR Commander Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend commented on US-Russia deconfliction effortsTownsend noted a marked increase in deconfliction efforts with Russia: prior to February 2017, all deconfliction with Russia was done through air forces. Starting in February they needed to deconflict on the ground: telephone lines with interpreters were created, and in May, a second node of communication was established through the CJTF-OIR headquarters, giving the US two lines of communication with Russia in Syria. Townsend said Russia and the US communicate several times a day through these deconfliction lines. PolicyCommentRussia CooperationDept. of Defense
03.08.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a phone conversationTillerson and Lavrov discussed bilateral relations and issues relevant to the US/Russia agenda, including regional and international security issues.PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationRussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
29.06.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a phone conversationTillerson and Lavrov discussed bilateral relations and issues relevant to the US/Russia agenda.PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationRussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
26.06.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a phone conversationTillerson and Lavrov discussed issues related to resolving the conflict in Syria, including ceasefires (in the context of the Astana process), increasing the fight against terrorist organizations, and preventing the use of chemical weapons. Lavrov also expressed Russia's disapproval of US actions against pro-Assad forces. PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationRussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
22.06.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a phone conversationTillerson and Lavrov discussed US-led Coalition airstrikes on pro-Assad forces. Lavrov stated such strikes were a violation of Syrian government sovereignty, and would impede combating terrism and reaching a solution to the conflict.PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationRussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
10.06.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a phone conversationTillerson and Lavrov discussed the situation in Syria, and cooperation to end the ongoing conflict. The ministers addressed US air strikes on pro-Assad forces in Syria, and potential action to avoid repetition. Tillerson and Lavrov also discussed using the Geneva talks and the Astana process to promote a settlement in Syria.PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationRussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
05.05.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a phone conversationTillerson and Lavrov discussed de-escalating the conflict in Syria, consolidating ceasefires, increasing efforts to combat terrorism, increasing support for the intra-Syrian negotiating process, and the outcome of the 3 - 4 May Astana Syria talks. PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationRussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
01.05.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a phone conversationTillerson and Lavrov discussed the upcoming talks on Syria in Astana (3 - 4 May)PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationRussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
21.04.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a phone conversationTillerson and Lavrov discussed the OPCW special meeting on the 4 April chemical weapon attack on Khan Sheikhoun.PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationRussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
08.04.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a phone conversationTillerson and Lavrov discussed the US cruise missile strike on the Syrian government's Shayrat airbase. Lavrov expressed Russia's disapproval of the strike, and disputed the US statement that the Assad government was responsible for the 4 April chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun that prompted the strike.PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationRussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
21.02.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a phone conversationTillerson and Lavrov discussed bilateral relations and issues relevant to the US/Russia agenda.PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationRussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
30.08.2017US-led Coalition conducted an airstrike to block a convoy of ISIS fighters moving from the Lebanese border to Deir Ezzor, SyriaThe Coalition airstrike cratered a road heading east between Humaymah and Abul Kamal to stop a convoy transporting 670 ISIS fighters and their families from Lebanon to Deir Ezzor. The transfer was part of a deal between ISIS, the Lebanese Army, Hezbollah, and the Syrian Arab Army to allow ISIS to relocate from the Lebanese/Syrian border to ISIS-held territory in Deir Ezzor. CJTF-OIR forces did not hit the convoy, but did strike other ISIS vehicles attempting to approach the convoy. The convoy returned to central Syria, and was resupplied by pro-government vehicles. CJTF-OIR officials said "Russian and pro-regime counter-ISIS words ring hollow when they cut deals with and allow terrorists to transit territory under their control;" US Special Presidential Envoy for the Anti-ISIS Coalition Brett McGurk voiced his disapproval, and Pentagon spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon stated that the ISIS fighters would be "absolutely lucrative targets."MilitaryDirect ActionISISDept. of Defense; Dept. of Defense
16.02.2017Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford met with his Russian counterpart, Army Gen. Valery GerasimovDunford and Gerasimov met to "strengthen military to military contacts," and to discuss the current state of military relationship bewteen the US and Russia. This was the first military meeting at this level since January 2014. The purpose of this meeting was it enhance the "military-to-military communications channel between the [chiefs of defense]. It avoids miscalculation; it promotes transparency when we have forces operating in close proximity to each other, as we do in Syria.”PolicyMeetingRussian CooperationDept. of Defense
08.02.2017Senior US and Russian defense officials held a video conference to discuss Syrian airspace deconflictionPentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said the conference was the latest in a series of meetings by US and Russian defense officials to discuss agreed-upon measures to mitigate incidents in the air over Syria, and follows previous video conferences on the US/Russia memorandum of understanding on air safety in Syria. The call was co-chaired by Ken Handelman, acting as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, and Rear Admiral. Michael J. Dumont, deputy director for strategic initiatives, Joint Staff J5 (Strategic Plans and Policy), with Russian Ministry of Defense counterparts. PolicyMeetingRussian CooperationDept. of Defense; Dept. of Defense
06.03.2017US, Russian, and Turkish Defense Chiefs met to discuss SyriaChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen., Joe Dunford met with Russian chief of the general staff, Army Gen. Valery Gerasimov, and Turkish chief of the general staff, Army Gen. Hulusi Akar, in Antalya, Turkey, on March 6-7 to discuss the Syrian battlespace and deconfliction methods. According to Dunford, the bulkd of the discussion aimed at setting a commong understanding of the situation in Syria. They also "set the conditions where now the three-stars-channel dialogue will take place to actually get to the details of deconfliction." He referred to the importance of "enhanced deconfliction." Dunford went on to note "We don’t have policy alignment with the Russians [in Syria]. We don’t have common political objectives.”PolicyMeetingRussian CooperationDept. of Defense
24.08.2017US officials commented on de-confliction efforts with Russia in SyriaUS Air Force Commander Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian said US and Russian military officials were regularly communicating via the established de-confliction line. US officials said the line is currently seeing between 10 and 12 calls per day. The officials also noted that some US and Russian contacts are working to establish a map demarcating the line between US and Russia-backed forces in Syria along the Euphrates river.PolicyCommentRussia CooperationReuters10-12 calls a day with Russia on the deconfliction line is a significant increase from the amount of contact under the Obama Administration
23.08.2017Joint Monitoring Center for de-escalation zone in S. Syria began operations in Amman, JordanA joint US, Jordan, and Russia de-escalation zone monitoring center began operations in Amman. It will reportedly monitor the de-escalation zone in Daraa and Quneitra provinces. MilitaryOperationConflict ResolutionTASS; Petra.gov
17.08.2017US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said US has strategic interest in long-term military presence in SyriaUS-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) spokesman Talal Silo said the US has a “strategic interest” in maintaining a long-term military presence in northern Syria after the defeat of ISIS. Silo stated “They have a strategy policy for decades to come. There will be military, economic and political agreements in the long term between the leadership of the northern areas (of Syria) ... and the U.S. administration.” US officials have declined to comment on Silo’s statement, saying only that there will be a lot of military work to be done in the area, even after ISIS has been removed. US Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the US-led Coalition against ISIS stated “Our mission ... is to defeat ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria and to set conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability."PolicyCommentOperationReuters
21.08.2017White House and State Department issued statements on 4th anniversary of chemical weapons attack on GhoutaBoth the US State Department and the White House issued statements on the fourth anniversary of the Syrian government’s deadly chemical weapons attack on Eastern Ghouta in 2013. The White House statement said that that the Syrian government "beyond a doubt" still possesses chemical weapons. Both statements reiterated the US's commitment to preventing further use of such weapons and indicated that the US would be willing to employ the "necessary means" against violators.PolicyCommentAssad Coalition
White House; State Dept
23.08.2017Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis met with Turkish officials in Ankara to discuss Syria, Iran, and the KurdsUS Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkish Minister of Defense Nurettin Canikli in Ankara. Included in the discussions was the importance of territorial integrity of Syria and Iraq, concern over “Iran's malign influence in the region,” regional stability, and Turkey's concerns over the PKK and US support for the YPG.PolicyMeetingConflict ResolutionUS Dept. of Defense; Daily Sabah
01.08.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commented on US goals in Syria and on Russian cooperationDuring press remarks at the State Dept., Tillerson addressed recent cooperation with Russia and desired end state conditions in Syria. On Russia, Tillerson said that the administration has "chosen the theater in Syria as a place in which we test our ability to work together," citing a shared view of the threat of ISIS. He stated the US is interested in pursuing ceasefire deals similar to that reached between the US, Russia, and Jordan in other parts of Syria, and voiced support for the Geneva process. Tillerson also said that Russian support of Assad is "unacceptable." Tillerson outlined two end state conditions the US wanted in Syria: a unified Syria with free/fair elections, a new constitution, and new leadership; and the removal of Iranian military presence (both IRGC and Iran-backed militias) from the country. He also said the US continues to believe that Assad has no role in the future governing of Syria. Tillerson went on to say "The sequence of all that we're open to, as long as that is...what is achieved in the end."PolicyCommentConflict ResolutionUS State Dept
01.08.2017President Donald Trump commented on the decision to dismantle the covert CIA Train and Equip program for Syrian opposition groups fighting AssadDuring an interview in the Wall Street Journal, Trump stated that he was not involved in the decision to discontinue the CIA covert program to armed Vetted Syrian Oppoostion (VSO) groups, saying it "was a decision made by people, not me." He also said that "It turns out its - a lot of al-Qaeda we're giving these weapons to."PolicyCommentPartner SupportPolitico
04.08.2017Special Presidential Envoy for the Anti-ISIS Coalition Brett McGurk gave a lengthy update on the fight against ISIS in Syria and IraqMcGurk stated that in the last six months, the campaign against ISIS "dramatically accelerated." He said that there are approximately 50,000 fighters in the US-led Coalition's main partner, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and that they were about half Arab and half Kurd. He also mentioned that the Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO) backed by Turkey had been effective against ISIS, and stressed how closely the US was working with Russia on deconfliction. McGurk stressed that stabilization, the key to US post-ISIS strategy, is not reconstruction: "Stabilization is demining" and rubble removal and restoration of basic services. He also mentioned that US training of anti-ISIS fighters is continuing at the al-Tanf garrison in the southern Badiya region of Syria. Notably, McGurk outlined four ways the Trump Administration's approach to Syria has shifted from that of the Obama Administration: 1) the delegation of tactical authority from the White House to commanders on the ground, 2) the implementation of a strategy of "annihilation" - completely surrounding ISIS positions before launching an offensive, 3) increased burden sharing within the 73-member US-led Coalition, and 4) a whole-of-government approach to combating ISIS, meaning increased cooperation/coordination within government branches and departments. PolicyCommentISISUS State Dept.Note that both the SDF and the Raqqa Civilian Council that McGurk refers to as key partners in the US strategy are dominated by the Kurdish YPG forces and Kurdish political bodies. His claim that half of the SDF is composed of non-Kurdish Arab fighters is dubious.
06.08.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met in ManilaTillerson and Lavrov met on the sidelines of the ASEAN conference in Manila. Among other issues, Lavrov and Tillerson discussed expanding on the agreement that established a ceasefire zone in southwestern Syria. PolicyMeetingConflict ResolutionUS State Dept.; Russian Min. of Foreign Affairs
21.05.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS foreign fighter and external attack planner near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Orhan Ramadani near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Ramadani was responsible for planning external terror attacks. He was an associate of Lavdrim Muhaxheri who was killed on 07 June.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
07.06.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS foreign fighter and external operations coordinator near QayiraA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Irfan Hafiqi near Qayira. Hafiqi, an ethnic Albanian, was involved in planning external attacks and recruiting foreign fighters from southeastern Europe. He was was a deputy of Lavdrim Muhaxheri, killed on 7 June.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
16.06.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS foreign fighter and external operations near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Razim Kastrati and five other ISIS fighters near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Kastrati was an ISIS external operations coordinator known to be involved in planning external attacks and training and moving fighters from Europe to Syria. He was a close associate of Lavdrim Muhaxheri who was killed on 07 June.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
30.06.2017US-led Coalition airtrike killed an ISIS foreign fighter and external attack planner in RaqqaA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Jetmir Ismaili in Raqqa in late June (Note: 30 June chosen as placeholder, exact date UNK). Ismaili was an ISIS external attack planner and a close associate of Lavdrim Muhaxheri who was killed on 07 June.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
07.06.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed prominent ISIS foreign fighter near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed prominent ISIS foreign fighter Lavdrim Muhaxheri near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Muhaxheri, an ethnic Albanian from Kacanc, Kosovo, was a self-proclaimed leader of ISIS foreign fighters from Kosovo. He was known for inciting extremist jihadi ideology in Europe and for encouraging foreign fighters to travel to ISIS-held territory. He was also responsible for planning multiple external terror attacks.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
13.07.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS explosives specialist near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abu Futtum and one of his associates near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Abu Futtum was an ISIS explosives specialist, part of ISIS' network to instruct and incite lone wolf attacks around the globe.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
16.07.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS external operation official near Deir Ezzor cityA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abu Hammam along with three other ISIS members near Deir Ezzor city. Abu Hammam was an ISIS official who assisted Abd al-Ghafur in planning external operations against the West and Middle East. MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
24.07.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS external operation official near Albu KamalA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abd al-Ghafur and an associate near Al-Bukamal, Deir Ezzor. Al-Ghafur was an ISIS official responsible for planning and directing external operations and attacks against targets in the Middle East and the West.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
02.08.2017US Special Envoy for Syria Michael Ratney released a statement warning armed opposition groups (AOGs) in northern Syria against associating with the group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS)HTS is a coalition led by the core elements of Jabhat al-Nusra, which has rebranded several times in the last year in an attempt to distance itself from al-Qaeda. The US statement - which was released only in Arabic - said that HTS is just a front for al-Nusra and the group will continue to be treated as al-Qaeda in Syria regardless of what name it chooses. In the statement Ratney acknowledges that some AOGs joined HTS for “tactical reasons and not ideological or intellectual ones,” but says that any faction in HTS will also be considered al-Qaeda, and therefore a designated terrorist organization. The statement warns that if HTS takes control of Idlib “it will be difficult for the US to convince international parties not to take necessary military actions.” This US statement comes as HTS consolidates control of new parts of Idlib governorate after it reached a deal to end weeks of feuding with Ahrar al-Sham.PolicyComment@USEmbassySyriaThe threat of possible military action against Idlib is vaguely worded. When it refers to “international parties,” it is unclear whether this means the US-led anti-ISIS Coalition, Turkey, or even Russia - whose policy the US is increasingly falling in line with in Syria. This statement is different from other US Syria Embassy/Envoy statements in several ways that suggest that it is targeted specifically at Syrian opposition groups. In addition to being published only in Arabic, the statement is phrased in colloquial terminology used by revolutionary Syrian opposition groups and civilians: calling HTS the “Jolani Gang," and referring to Idlib as "the liberated north." In this context, “Liberated” is a reference to the area’s liberation from Assad, not ISIS.
31.05.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed ISIS "Grand Mufti,” or chief cleric near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Turki al-Bin’ali, the self-proclaimed “Grand Mufti,” or chief cleric, of ISIS, near Mayadin, Syria. Al-Bin’ali played a central role in recruiting foreign terrorist fighters and spreading propaganda to provoke attacks around the world. Al-Bin’ali was known to be a close associate of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
30.05.2017US-backed armed opposition groups said US-led Coalition increased military support in southern SyriaLeaders of two US-backed AOGs - Jaysh Ossoud al-Sharqiya and Maghawir al-Thawra - reported that the US and allies had increased the amount of military aid in southern Syria around al-Tanf within the previous two weeks, coinciding with the build-up of pro-government militias nearby. They said the aid was increased two separate channels: the cover CIA-backed "Operation Timber Sycamore" Military Operations Command, and a separate anti-ISIS training program run by the Pentagon. One commander said that the increased aid included more heavy military vehicles, anti-tank TOW missiles, and armored vehicles, in addition to intensified recruitment efforts. Although the US did not directly confirm the reports, a CJTF-OIR spokesman did say the US had increased its military footprint in al-Badiya.MilitaryOperationPartner SupportReuters; TSI
31.03.2017White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer talked about the future of Bashar al-AssadDuring a briefing, Spicer told reporters that "with respect to Assad, there is a political reality that we have to accept in terms of where we are right now," and deferred to statements made by Haley and Tillerson the day before which suggested that the US would no longer seek the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Spicer said that "we need to focus on now defeating ISIS."PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionWhite HouseNotable as people search for clues as to the Trump administration's Syria policy, in that it suggests the US no longer sees Assad's removal as a goal.
30.05.2017Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley spoke at a UN Security Council briefing on the humanitarian situation in SyriaHaley condemned the actions of Assad against the people of Syria, and stated "Russia and Iran have either aided in or passively looked away as the Assad regime commits atrocities that are reminiscent of the history’s worst war crimes." Haley also stated that in addition to pursuing a political transition, attention must be given to the needs of countries hosting refugees, and work must begin to allow for the return of refugees to Syria.PolicyCommentUSUN; TSI
30.05.2017US began arming Kurdish YPG for Raqqa offensiveThe US began distributing weapons and military equipment to the Kurdish YPG forces taking part in the offensive to recapture Raqqa from the Islamic State (ISIS), based on authority given by President Trump earlier in the month. Items delivered reportedly include machine guns, vehicles, and ammunition.MilitaryOperationPartner SupportReuters; TSI
30.03.2017US to stop disclosure of troop deployments to Iraq and SyriaPentagon Spokesperson Eric Pahon told the LA Times that “In order to maintain tactical surprise, ensure operational security and force protection, the coalition will not routinely announce or confirm information about the capabilities, force numbers, locations, or movement of forces in or out of Iraq and Syria."PolicyOperationUS ActionLA Times
30.03.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement on the future of AssadDuring a press conference in Turkey, Secretary Tillerson said "I think the status and the longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people," when asked whether Assad should stay or go.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionUS State Dept.Notable as people search for clues as to the Trump administration's Syria policy, in that it suggests the US no longer sees Assad's removal as a goal.
29.03.2017A US service member died of natural causes in northern SyriaCENTCOM announced the death of a US service member in northern Syria from "suspected natural causes." No additional details provided.MilitaryCasualtyUS CENTCOM
30.03.2017Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley issued a statement on the future of AssadAmbassador Nikki Haley told a group of reporters that the US "priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out."PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionReutersNotable as people search for clues as to the Trump administration's Syria policy, in that it suggests the US no longer sees Assad's removal as a goal.
28.06.2017Special Presidential Envoy for the Anti-ISIS Coalition Brett McGurk travelled to SyriaDuring his trip, Mcgurk met with members of the SDF-created Raqqa Civil Council to discuss post-ISIS governance issues amd stabilization efforts in Raqqa. An official statement on his trip stated "Once Raqqa is liberated, it is critical that local officials from the area take over responsibility for post-liberation security and governance. We are working intensively with myriad local entities to prepare for this transition."PolicyMeetingPartner SupportUS State Dept.; TSIMcGurk’s visit follows a recent report that the Raqqa Civil Council is effectively hamstrung by a lack of funding, even prior to assuming control of Raqqa. According to its members, the RCC has received only small private donations so far. The US has stated it is prepared to fund the council, providing they prove themselves to be “inclusive and representative.” The RCC estimates it will take approximately $10 million per year to rebuild Raqqa’s infrastructure. There is also tension on the local level regarding whether the RCC will actually represent the Sunni Arab majority population of Raqqa, since it was established by the SDF, which is dominated by Kurdish YPG forces
28.02.2017US co-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution on chemical weapons use in Syria was vetoed by Syria Russia and ChinaUS was a co-penholder with the UK and France on a draft resolution aimed at imposing sanctions on the Syrian government and ISIS for their use of chemical weapons. The draft was a follow up to Resolution 2118 (2013), which covered the dismantling of Syria's chemical weapons program and called for further measures under Chapter VII in case of non-compliance. Since then, the independent Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) has determined that the Syrian government is guilty of three cases chlorine chemical attacks and ISIS is responsible for one mustard gas attack. Russia and China vetoed the draft when it was brought to a vote on 28 February 2017.PolicyUNUNSC; Whats In Blue; USUN; TSI
27.06.2017Secretary of Defense James Mattis commented on arming KurdsMattis indicated in comments to reporters that the US may continue to supply the Kurdish YPG with weapons even after Raqqa is recaptured from ISIS.PolicyCommentPartner SupportReuters; TSIThis is notable because US ally Turkey wants the US to stop arming the Kurds, which Turkey see as a security threat. Mattis's comments contradict earlier assurances that Turkey has said it received that the US would take back heavy arms from the Kurds after the fall of Raqqa. The new Mattis statements could damage an already strained US-Turkish relationship.
27.07.2017Top Trump Administration Middle East advisor Derek Harvey firedTop Middle East advisor Derek Harvey was removed from his position on the National Security Council (NSC). Harvey was known to be hawkish, pushing a more aggressive approach to Iran and Syria than several other key administration military advisors. Harvey was a strong advocate of the administration's decision to strike Bashar al-Assad's airbase after the 04 April chemical attack.PolicyWeekly Standard; NBC NewsMay signal a shift in the administration's Syria policy priorities.
27.07.2017The US-led Coalition cut support for a Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO) partner in southern Syria, told groups they will receive support only if they fight the ISIS not the Assad governmentThe US-led Coalition told its vetted Syrian partner forces that they must only fight the Islamic State, and not the Assad government. Coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon stated that any group that pursues objectives outside of fighting ISIS would no longer receive Coalition backing. As a result, the previously US-backed opposition group Shuhada al-Qaratayn, which engaged in an anti-Assad operations, will no longer receive Coalition support and has reportedly left the garrison at al-Tanf in southern Syria.MilitaryOperationPartner SupportUS Dept. of Defense; CNN; TSIShuhada al-Qaratayn is believed to have originally been supported by the US under the CIA covert program which began as an anti-Assad effort. Shuhada al-Qaratayn has been a US-led anti-ISIS Coalition partner since the al-Tanf base was first put into use, working with the Coalition first under the "New Syrian Army" banner and then under the Maghaweer al-Thawra banner. Though this has been US policy for years - using US arms to fight ISIS only - this is believed to be the first time that a Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO) group has been cut from the program for this reason.
27.04.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS external operations facilitator near MayadinA Coalition airstrike killed Mustafa Gunes, a Syria-based ISIS external operations facilitator from Turkey, near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Gunes was linked to recruiting in Turkey, and to facilitating financial support for planning attacks outside Syria and Iraq against the West.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
26.06.2017US warned of potential preparations for new chemical attack from the Assad governmentUS Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the US had identified potential preparations by the Assad government for a new chemical weapons attack, similar to those that occurred prior to the 04 April chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun. Spicer stated that should Assad conduct another similar attack, he and his military would "pay a heavy price."PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionWhite House; TSIThis is the first time that the US has given public forewarning of an Assad government attack.
26.05.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS senior media official near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed senior ISIS media official Rayaan Meshaal sometime between 25-27 May near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Meshaal was the head and founder of the official ISIS propaganda media outlet Amaq.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
26.05.2017US soldier killed in vehicle accident in northern SyriaUS soldier Spc. Etienne J. Murphy died in al-Hasakah, Syria, of injuries sustained during a vehicle rollover related incident. Murphy was assigned to 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, and was in Syria supporting the anti-ISIS Coalition.MilitaryCasualtyUS CENTCOM; US Dept. of Defense; TSI
26.04.2017Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis requested a review of Force Management Levels (FML) in Syria and IraqMattis requested a review of the FML status in Syria and Iraq, but no changes have yet been made. The review reportedly included an audit of how the military determines force levels, what department will release information to the public, and how that information will be released.PolicyOperationUS ActionBuzzFeed; TSI
24.04.2017US sanctioned 271 members of Assad’s Scientific Studies and Research CenterUS Treasury Department sanctioned 271 members of Assad's Scientific Studies and Research Center, which is responsible for Syria's biological and chemical weapons programs. The sanctions are in response to the Syrian government's 04 April sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun.PolicySanctionsAssad CoalitionUS Treasury Dept.; TSI
24.05.2017CENTCOM Commander commented on US/Russia deconfliction efforts and civilian casualties in SyriaDuring a press briefing, Lieutenant General Jeffrey Harrigan said deconfliction efforts with Russia had increased due to the tighter airspace as multiple forces fight around Raqqa, but noted that "we do not have specific zones that we are de-conflicting with them," and the US would operate wherever necessary. He also refuted recent analysis by Airwars and other monitoring groups suggesting that the number of civilian casualties had significantly increased under the Trump administration, stressing that "the rules of engagement have not changed." However, Harrigan did indicate that there had been changes to authority levels to "be more responsive to support our forces on the ground."PolicyCommentRussia CooperationUS Dept. of Defense; TSI
22.03.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke about Syria at an anti-ISIS coalition Global summitAt the Ministerial Plenary for the Global Coalition Working to Defeat ISIS, Tillerson said that "While a more defined course of action in Syria is still coming together" the US will "establish interim zones of stability through ceasefires to allow refugees to go home." He also praised Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield for pusing ISIS off of the Turkey-Syria border.PolicyCommentConflict ResolutionUS State Dept.; TSINotably, the interim zones of stability through local ceasefires described by Tillerson is essentially the strategy that Russia has been pushing. This strategy has thus far proven ineffective to support the return of displaced Syrians and difficult to enforce.
22.03.2017US-led Coalition partner Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched offensive to capture Tabqa DamThe US-led Coalition supported the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the launch of the offensive to capture Tabqah Dam from ISIS by providing air support, artillery, and military advice to SDF leadership. The Coalition also airlifted SDF forces to the Tabqah area.MilitaryOperationPartner ActionUS CENTCOM; TSI
21.04.2017The US co-hosted a UN Security Council Arria-formula meeting on the Syria Commission of Inquiry (COI)The US co-hosted the Arria-formula along with the UK and France to focus on the reporting of the Syria COI. In a statement, the US said it was willing to work with Russia to bring an end to the Syrian conflict, but that it was crucial for Moscow to exercise its influence over Bashar al-Assad to bring an end to his government's attacks on the people of Syria.PolicyUNWhats In Blue; USUN; TSI
22.03.2017H.R.1677 - Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act of 2017 introduced into US House of RepresentativesThe bi-partisan Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act seeks to impose a large-scale sanctions program on the supporters of the Assad government, and aims to "halt the wholesale slaughter of the Syrian people, encourage a negotiated political settlement, and hold Syrian human rights abusers accountable for their crimes."PolicyLegislationAssad CoalitionUS Congress
20.06.2017US aircraft shot down pro-government drone in southern SyriaA US aircraft shot down a pro-government Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) threatening US-led Coalition forces near the al-Zakf outpost to the northeast of al-Tanf in the desert Badiya region of Syria. As per a CJTF-OIR statement, the Iranian-made Shaheed-129 drone was advancing toward US-led Coalition positions, displaying "hostile intent." The drone was intercepted by a US F-16E fighter, and was shot down after it failed to deviate from its course. This is the third US engagement with pro-government forces in less than a month.MilitaryDirect ActionAssad CoalitionCJTF-OIR; TSI
20.04.2017President Trump delegated authority to determine Force Management Levels (FML) in Syria and Iraq to Secretary of Defense Jim MattisThe decision gives the Pentagon and military commanders a freer hand in determining the number of forces deployed in the fight against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Speaking on the delegation of authority, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White stated, "Restoring [Force Management Level] FML decisions to the Secretary of Defense enables military commanders to be more agile, adaptive and efficient in supporting our partners, and enables decisions that benefit unit readiness, cohesion and lethality.”PolicyOperationUS ActionBuzzFeed; TSIThis decision is part of a shift in the Trump administration to allow military commanders greater autonomy in the field. This trend may be responsible for the increased number of civilian casualties reported in Syria.
21.03.2017Disputed US airstrike on a school in Mansoura, Raqqa, reportedly killed civiliansLocal sources claim that a US-led Coalition airstrike hit a school in Mansoura, Raqqa, where IDPs were taking shelter, killing more than 30 civilians. In its monthly Civilian Casualty report, the US said there was "insufficient evidence to find that civilians were harmed in this strike."MilitaryDirect ActionISISNY Times; US CENTCOM; TSIApparent increase in reports of high-civilian casualty strikes by US-led Coalition in Syria, indicative of potential shifts in rules of engagement. Although the military has denied changes in the rules of engagement, this comes amid the context of reports that the Trump administration is trying to roll back Obama administration measures designed to minimize civilian casualties.
19.07.2017Reports emerged that President Donald Trump decided to end covert CIA Syria rebel train and equip programThe Washington Post reported that President Trump decided to end the CIA's covert train and equip program, in an effort to increase cooperation with Russia. Officials spoke anonymously and the US government has not commented officially, though Trump later tweeted what could be a confirmation of both the program's existence and his decision to end it. US Special Operations Commander Tony Thomas similarly made comments that appeared to confirm the end of the covert program before trying to walk them back, as the program has never been officially discussed in public by the CIA.PolicyOperationPartner SupportWashington Post; @realDonaldTrump; Politico; TSIIn addition to fulfilling Russian strategic objectives, the move will also be welcomed by Assad, ISIS, and Iran, all of whom saw the moderate opposition forces as their primary enemy. Ending the program has the potential to strengthen extremist forces by pushing moderate Vetted Syrian Opposition (VSO) fighters into their ranks, both out of disillusionment and the lack of other options. One key question moving forward is how the move might impact other train-and-equip supporters - notably Saudi Arabia. They could step in to fill the gap left by the US, even sending heavier anti-aircraft weapons to VSO fighters that were previously vetoed by the US. They could also abandon the VSO groups, and redirect that support towards other fighters they also fund.
12.06.2017Secretary of Defense James Mattis comments on al-Qaeda in SyriaIn an Armed Services Committee hearing reviewing the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Budget Request, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis stated the US does not currently “have the reach” to address the presence of al-Qaeda in Syria. Instead, US focus will remain on defeating ISIS in the east of the country.PolicyCommentAl QaedaHouse Committee on Armed Services; BIVN
19.05.2017Top US military officials held a press briefing on the anti-ISIS campaignUS Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said US focus in Syria is stabilization, not nation-building. Mattis mentioned a shift in US tactics in fighting ISIS: encompass ISIS forces, then attack to ensure its annihilation. He also noted that Trump had delegated military authority in order to rapidly respond to enemy vulnerabilities. In response to a reporter's question, he said that the focus on destroying ISIS remains the same under the Trump administration but "no longer will we have slowed decision cycles because Washington D.C. has to authorize tactical movements on the ground," referring to new delegations of authority. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford said US strikes against pro-government forces are a "force protection" measure, not a sign of increasing aggression. He also mentioned that the US was working on a proposal with the Russians but could not give details. Dunford also said that the US had been stockpiling equipment which it had been able to quickly field to the SDF, but later walked back the statement, telling a reporter he "misspoke" and that the US had not yet begun providing the SDF with arm. He went on to say that they were taking efforts to mitigate Turkish concerns about arming the SDF. Additionally, Dunford described the importance of ongoing deconfliction communications with Russia, describing both sides as "enthusiastic" about it and calling the operational link on the ground as "robust." Special Envoy Brett McGurk said "we will never work with the Assad regime."PolicyCommentUS Dept. of Defense; TSIThe briefing included insight on several related topics. Notably that the US operations in Syria had indeed seen a shift under the Trump administration towards devolving combat decision-making closer to the ground level. This new level of permissions is likely responsible for the increased pace of anti-ISIS combat operations and of increased civilian casualties. Another takeaway is the emphasis on deconfliction coordination with Russia, which based on the descriptions, appears to have expanded from prior months.
18.07.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed ISIS member who handled terror attack funds in MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Bassam al-Jayfus in Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. According to the statement al-Jayfus who handled funds for terror attacks around the world.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
18.06.2017US aircraft shot down manned Syrian government jet south of TabqaFor the second time, the US took military action against Syrian government-affiliated forces in order to protect US-led Coalition partners. Pro-government forces attacked US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) near Tabqa, forcing them to withdraw from the town of Ja'Din. The US-led Coalition contacted Russia via the established de-confliction line in an attempt to de-escalate the situation. Shortly thereafter, a Syrian Government SU-22 jet dropped munitions near SDF positions, and was immediately shot down by a US F/A 18E Super Hornet fighter. The US described the shoot down as being "in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces." The next day, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said that he was confident that the communications link between US and Russian forces would remain open, despite a Russian threat to close the de-confliction channel.MilitaryDirect ActionAssad CoalitionCJTF-OIR; National Press Club; TSI
18.05.2017US-led Coalition struck pro-Assad militia convoy in southern SyriaFor the first time since it began operations in Syria, the US-led Coalition deliberately struck pro-government forces in Syria. A 27 vehicle pro-government convoy advanced into the de-confliction zone surrounding the Coalition base at al-Tanf, reportedly reaching within 17 miles of the US-led Coalition base. After multiple efforts to dissuade the convoy from advancing further (including warning shots and the use of the US/Russia de-confliction line), Coalition forces conducted an airstrike on the foremost section of the convoy.MilitaryDirect ActionAssad CoalitionCJTF-OIR; TSI
18.04.2017Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said US & Russia still deconflicting in SyriaMattis said the US is deconflicting with Russia in Syria, but not coordinating with them. "We are not coordinating our attacks with them and integrating with them."PolicyCommentRussia CooperationUS Dept. of Defense
17.05.2017US-led Coalition begins training first batch of post-ISIS Raqqa Internal Security Forces (RISF)According to ARA News, a US-led Coalition spokesperson confirmed that the Coalition had begun training the first batch of 50 Raqqa Internal Security Forces (RISF) in Ain Eissa. The RISF is reportedly composed of vetted local members of the Syrian Arab Coalition, a component of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and will serve as a police force to provide security and prevent ISIS attacks in Raqqa province after ISIS is defeated.MilitaryOperationPartner SupportARA News; US Dept. of DefenseWhile messaging from the Coalition stresses the Arab and multiethnic nature of the RISF, there are concerns that this is window-dressing for a Kurdish governance power grab in an area where Kurds are not the majority.
17.05.2017House of Representatives passed the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act (H.R.1677)The bi-partisan Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act seeks to impose a large-scale sanctions program on the supporters of the Assad government, and aims to "halt the wholesale slaughter of the Syrian people, encourage a negotiated political settlement, and hold Syrian human rights abusers accountable for their crimes."PolicyLegislationAssad CoalitionForeign Affairs; US Congress; TSI
18.02.2017President Donald Trump comment on Syria safe zonesAt a campaign rally, President Trump reiterated his desire to build safe zones in Syria, posing it as an alternative to taking in refugees. He said that they would have the gulf states pay for the safe zones.PolicyCommentConflict ResolutionVox
16.06.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed ISIS financial facilitator in al-BukamalA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Fawaz Muhammad Jubayr al-Rawi, a Syrian native and an experienced terrorist financial facilitator, in Al-Bukamal. Al-Rawi owned the Hanifa Currency Exchange in Abu-Kamal, which he used along with a network of global financial contacts to move money into and out of ISIS-controlled territory and across borders on behalf of the group.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
16.05.2017Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his Turkish counterpart discussed the Kurds and Syria in a meeting at the White HouseA readout from the meeting between Secretary Mattis and Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık said that the two agreed on the need to combat the PKK and discussed the importance of continued cooperation in Syria. The meeting is in preparation for the next day when President Trump and President Erdogan will meet.PolicyMeetingPartner SupportUS Dept. of DefenseThis meeting comes within a week of reports that the US has agreed to directly arm the Kurdish YPG in Syria, which has ties to the PKK. The move has strained US-Turkey relations.
16.05.2017US sanctioned 10 individuals and entities related to the Syrian governmentUS Treasury Department sanctioned five entities and five individuals for the Syrian government's continued violence against Syrian citizens.PolicySanctionsAssad CoalitionUS Treasury
16.05.2017Turkish President Erdogan and President Trump discussed US relations with the Kurdish YPG during a White House meetingAt the top of the agenda for the meeting was US military support for the Kurdish YPG militia. Erdogan was expected to push for an end to this support, however, media reports indicate that Erdogan was ultimately unsuccessful in his attempt to dissuade futher military cooperation between the two actors. Trump commented that he was looking forward to working with Erdogan on combating shared threats; Erdogan stated there was no room for terrorist organizations in the region, and that Turkey would never accept the presence of the YPG and the PYD in the area.PolicyMeetingPartner SupportWhite House; The Guardian; TSI
16.04.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed ISIS senior media director in MayadinThe US-led Coalition killed Abu Ali al-Janubi, ISIS's senior media director, in an airstrike in Mayadin, Deir Ezzor.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
16.03.2017Disputed US airstrike targeting al-Qaeda in al-Jinah, Idlib, reportedly killed civiliansUS CENTCOM released a statement stating US forces conducted an airstrike against an al-Qaeda meeting place in Idlib, killing several terrorists. Investigations conducted by Human Rights Watch, Bellingcat, and Forensic Architecture suggest that the strike hit a mosque in al-Jinah village during Friday prayer, killing at least 42 civilians and injuring dozens of others.MilitaryDirect ActionAl QaedaUS CENTCOM; bellingcat; HRW; Forensic Architechture; Airwars; TSIApparent increase in reports of high-civilian casualty strikes by US-led Coalition in Syria, indicative of potential shifts in rules of engagement. Although the military has denied changes in the rules of engagement, this comes amid the context of reports that the Trump adminstration is trying to roll back Obama administration measures designed to minimize civilian casualties.
15.05.2017The State Department released a newly declassified report on a crematorium constructed by the Syrian government to dispose of torture victims at Saydnaya PrisonThe State Department released newly declassified satellite imagery of Saydnaya prison showing what is believed to be a newly constructed crematorium. The State Department said it has credible intelligence that suggests the crematorium is used to dispose of the bodies of prisoners held and tortured at Saydnaya, covering up mass murder.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionUS State Dept.; Defense Video Hub; TSI
13.07.2017US Envoy to the anti-ISIS Coalition Brett McGurk commented on US cooperation with Russia in Syria and the recent ceasefire in the southwestDuring a press briefing, McGurk made several comments about the US actions in Syria. He stated the US was working very hard with Russia on deconfliction efforts in Syria and said the US was "actually fairly encouraged" by the progress. He described the US as being in phase one of its approach in Syria: defeat ISIS. Phase two will involve de-escalating the civil war through ceasefires and de-escalation agreements in order to find a credible political solution. McGurk also commented on the recently-negotiated southern Syria ceasefire announced by Russia, the US and Jordan, saying it was different than past attempts because it had a "very detailed negotiated line," and the Russians were willing to put some personnel on the ground to enforce the ceasefire and prevent Syrian government violations.PolicyCommentRussia CooperationUS State Dept.; TSINotable in that the strategy that McGurk is describing is one that Russia has been pushing unsuccessfully for years. The comments suggest that the US is willing to concede to Russian leadership in Syria.
14.06.2017US relocated long-range missile system (HIMARS) to southern SyriaAccording to unnamed intelligence sources, the US redeployed its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) from Jordan to its al-Tanf base in southern Syria. Although the HIMARS platform has been used to strike ISIS targets in Syria before from both the Jordanian and Turkish borders, this is the first time is has been stationed within the country.MilitaryOperationUS ActionReuters; TSIThe deployment of the HIMARS weapons platform to Syria comes at a time of increased tensions after the US attacked pro-government Assad Coalition forces perceived to be threatening US-led coalition partners in southern Syria on multiple occasions. The movement of HIMARS into Syria sends a clear deterrence message to both Russia, Assad, and to Iranian-backed militia groups in the area.
12.04.2017The US co-sponsored a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Khan Sheikhoun chemical weapons attack. Russia vetoed the resolutionRussia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution proposed by the US, UK, and France, which condemned the sarin gas attack in Idlib and pushed the Syrian government to cooperate with an OPCW investigation of the attack. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley used the occasion to publicly pressure Russia to do more to stop Assad, telling the Council that: "Russia now has a lot to prove."PolicyUNUNSC; UNSC; Whats In Blue; Whats In Blue; UNSC; USUN; TSIThis marked the eighth time Russia vetoed a resolution on Syria in the Security Council.
12.04.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in MoscowDuring the press conference afterwards, Lavrov said the discussion focused heavily on Syria, specifically the chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun and the US missile strike on the Shayrat airbase. Notably, during the meeting Putin and Lavrov decided to reinstate the US/Russia de-confliction line, previously suspended by Russia in response to the strike on Shayrat. Lavrov also said that both sides have appointed a special representative to talk through US-Russia issues, Tillerson called it a "working group." According to Tillerson, he "expressed the view that the current state of U.S.-Russia relations is at a low point and there is a low level of trust between our two countries." He said that Russia and the US agreed there needs to be high-level diplomatic and military communication between the two countries.Tillerson said the final outcome in Syria "does not provide a role for Assad" but left open when or how that would happen, saying it did not have to come before a political solution. The leaders still seemed to diverge on one key issue: culpability for the 04 April Khan Sheikhoun sarin attack, with Tillerson reconfirming that it was definitely the Assad regime while Lavrov denying this and calling for a "unbiased" independent investigation.PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationUS State Dept.; TSIOverall these statements demonstrate the increasingly clear shifts in US rhetoric and policty on Syria towards the positions pushed by Russia. This type of shift was resisted during the Obama administration due to a residual acknowledgment that Russia was supporting Assad's goals in Syria before any sort of counter-terrorism strategy. Also, note that it is not clear that the US-Russia de-confliction line was ever completely closed after the Khan Sheikhoun attack and US response, despite Russia's statements.
11.05.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS external operations planner near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abu Asim al-Jazaeri, a French-Algerian ISIS fighter and external operations planner, near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. Al-Jazaeri was involved in training ISIS youths through the 'Cubs of the Caliphate' program.MilitaryDirect ActionISISUS CENTCOM
11.04.2017US-led Coalition forces killed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters in friendly-fire incidentA misdirected US-led Coalition airstrike resulted in the deaths of 18 SDF fighters near Tabqa. According to a CJTF-OIR statement, the strike had been called in by Coalition partner forces, who believed the location to be a ISIS fighting position, when it was actually a SDF position.MilitaryDirect ActionPartnerUS CENTCOM
10.05.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the White HouseAccording to official State Dept. readout Tillerson and Lavrov discussed "the importance of defeating ISIS, de-escalating the violence in Syria, and ensuring that humanitarian assistance reaches hundreds of thousands of civilians throughout the country. Additionally, the Secretary and Foreign Minister restated support for the UN-led political process in Geneva, which is central to international efforts to bring about an enduring resolution to the conflict." Sputnik - a Russian state propaganda outlet - suggested that one of Moscow's main priorities was trying to get the US to join Russia in a "united anti-terrorist coalition against Daesh"PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationUS State Dept.; Sputnik News; TSI
09.03.2017US deployed 400 troops to northern SyriaAccording to Col. John L. Dorrian, spokesman for the US-led anti-ISIS Coalition, the said the US would temporarily provide an additional 400 US forces "to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS in Raqqa." The reinforcements consist of a team of Army Rangers and a Marine artillery, doubling the approximately 500 US personnel already on the ground.MilitaryOperationUS ActionNY Times; TSI
10.05.2017US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured TabqaThe SDF captured ISIS-held Tabqa city, Tabqa airfield, and Tabqa Dam, ending an offensive that was launched on 22 March. According to the US military statement, approximately 70 remaining ISIS fighters accepted the final terms of the surrender, which included surrendering arms and evacuating the area.MilitaryOperationPartner ActionUS CENTOM; TSIThe capture of Tabqah further isolates ISIS in the Raqqa governorate, and is a key stepping stone for the US-led SDF to launch an assault on the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa city, to the east of Tabqa.
10.05.2017President Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak at the White HouseAccording to the official White House readout about the private meeting: "President Trump emphasized the need to work together to end the conflict in Syria, in particular, underscoring the need for Russia to rein in the Assad regime, Iran, and Iranian proxies." Later investigative reporting found that during the meeting, President Trump revealed highly classified intelligence regarding a specific ISIS threat provided by a close ally - believed to be Israel - including naming Raqqa as the city from which the intel originated.PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationWhite House; Washington Post; NY Times; TSI
08.06.2017US-led Coalition airstrike targeted pro-Assad militia convoy in southern SyriaUS aircraft struck and destroyed two pro-Assad militia "armed technical vehicles" that were advancing toward the US-led Coalition base at al-Tanf in southern Syria.MilitaryDirect ActionAssad CoalitionUS CENTCOM; TSI
08.06.2017US aircraft shot down a pro-government UAV in southern SyriaA US aircraft shot down a pro-government Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) after it launched an attack on US-led Coalition personnel near al-Tanf in southern Syria. The munition fired by the UAV failed to detonate on impact, and the drone, roughly the size of a US MQ-1 Predator, was subsequently shot down. This shoot down follows and airstrike on a pro-Assad militia convoy earlier in the day.MilitaryDirect ActionAssad CoalitionCJTF-OIR; TSIPro-government forces, along with armed opposition groups, have previously employed the use of small, recreational sized drones for surveillance purposes. The drone shot down near the US-led coalition outpost at Zaqaf, however, was significantly larger (as stated in the CJTFOIR report, roughly the size of a MQ-1 Predator drone), and had weapons capabilities. Unidentified at the time, it was later determined to be a Iranian Shaheed-129.
08.05.2017President Trump authorized US Department of Defense to arm Kurdish forces against ISISTrump approved a Defense Department initiative to directly arm Kurdish forces for the pending offensive on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. In a statement, DoD Spokesperson said the US was aware of Turkey's concerns and committed to its security. A week after the approval, media reporting confirmed that the arms shipments would include anti-tank weapons.PolicyOperationPartner SupportTSI; White House; US Dept. of Defense; Zaman al-WslDamaging to the strained relationship with NATO ally Turkey, which is highly critical of the deepening US relationship with the Syrian Kurds, whom Turkey views as a security threat. The public reports of anti-tank weapons came out on 15 May, one day before President Erdogan was scheduled to meet with President Trump in DC.
07.07.2017US, Russia, and Jordan announced a ceasefire agreement in southwest SyriaAccording to Lavrov, the ceasefire goes into effect on 09 July at 12 pm Damascus time and will cover Daraa, Quneitra and Suweida governorates. He said that Russia and the US were committed to guaranteeing the ceasefire and were setting up a Monitoring Centre in Jordan. He also said that Russian military police would provide security around the zone in the beginning.PolicyAgreementConflict ResolutionWhite House; Petra.gov.jo; Russian Min. of Foreign Affairs; TSIA former diplomat familiar with the backchannel talks between Russia, Jordan, and the US has stated that the Trump administration's priority on Syria “is to stop the killing. That's why they are willing to watch what Russia is doing. They are willing to give Russia a major role to play … to find a solution … in a way that Assad, in the endgame, should be out, and Iran should be out.”
07.07.2017President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of the G20 conference in MunichTrump and Putin met face-to-face for the first time in a closed meeting also attended by Tillerson and Lavrov but no other diplomatic or policy personnel. Much of the meeting was spent discussing Syria, and the US-Russia-Jordan de-escalation agreement for southwest Syria was announced shortly after the meeting adjourned. Tillerson told the press that the newly announced agreement shows the potential for increased cooperation between the US and Russia in Syria. He said that they had a "very lengthy discussion" on other areas the two countries can work together on in Syria including work on de-escalation in other areas, defeating ISIS, and ultimately a political process to stabilize the country once ISIS is defeated. Tillerson said they have a very clear picture of who will provide forces to secure the ceasefire in the SW but gave no specifics. He also reaffirmed US policy on the current Syrian president, saying: "our position continues to be that we see no long-term role for the Assad family or the Assad regime."PolicyMeetingRussia CooperationWhite House; TSI; Russian Min. of Foreign AffairsTillerson made several comments that suggest a US shift towards adopting Russian policies in Syria, saying of Russia: "by and large, our objectives are exactly the same" and "Maybe they've got the right approach and we've got the wrong approach." This is notable because the US government has long recognized that - based on its actions - Russia's primary objective in Syria is to prop up the Assad regime, not fight ISIS.
07.06.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed ISIS financial facilitator near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Samer Idris, key ISIS financial facilitator for external terror attacks and an international money launderer, near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
07.04.2017Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley issued a statement on the US missile strikes on Shayrat airbase at the UNAmbassador Haley addressed the UN Security Council regarding the US strike on Assad's airbase. She said that the international community had failed to prevent the use of chemical weapons, compelling the US to take action. She said that Russia and Iran shared the blame for the 04 April Khan Sheikhoun chemical attacks and that the "United States will no longer wait for Assad to use chemical weapons without any consequences. Those days are over." Haley also said that preventing the spread and use of chemical weapons is a vital US security interest, and warned that the US was prepared to take similar steps should the Syrian regime use chemical weapons again.PolicyCommentUS ActionUSUN; TSI
07.04.2017US launched cruise missiles at Syrian government's Shayrat AirbaseUS warships in the Mediterranean launched 59 TLAM cruise missiles at the Syrian government's Shayrat airbase in Homs governorate, which US intelligence services believe to be the point of origin for the Syrian aircraft that carried out the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun three days earlier. The missiles targeted aircraft and infrastructure at the base, including aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars. According to the State Department, Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike, and precautions were taken to prevent casualties of Russian and Syrian personnel. It also said that the purpose of the attack was to deter the Syrian government from using chemical weapons again. In a statement, President Trump said "It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."MilitaryDirect ActionAssad CoalitionUS CENTCOM; White House; TSIThis was the first time the US intentionally targeted Syrian military assets during its involvement in the Syrian conflict.
06.06.2017US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched Raqqa OffensiveThe US military announced that the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were starting the offensive to capture the city of Raqqa in northern Syria from ISIS.MilitaryOperationPartner ActionUS CENTCOM; TSI
06.06.2017US-led Coalition airstrike targeted pro-Assad militia convoy in southern SyriaUS-led Coalition forces struck a convoy of pro-government forces advancing into the de-confliction zone surrounding the Coalition base at al-Tanf after giving the convoy multiple warnings to turn back. The convoy included a tank, artillery, anti-aircraft weapons, armed technical vehicles and more than 60 soldiers. The airstrike destroyed two artillery pieces, an anti-aircraft weapon, and damaged a tank.MilitaryDirect ActionAssad CoalitionCJTF-OIR; TSI
06.04.2017US-led Coalition airstrike killed an ISIS external terror attack facilitator near MayadinA US-led Coalition airstrike killed Abdurakhmon Uzbeki, a foreign fighter and external terror attack facilitator, in an airstrike near Mayadin, Deir Ezzor. He was a known associate of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and played a role in a deadly New Years Eve attack in Istanbul.MilitaryDirect ActionISISCJTF-OIR
05.07.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a statement about possible increases in US - Russia cooperation in SyriaIn a statement Tillerson said the US "is prepared to explore the possibility of establishing with Russia joint mechanisms for ensuring stability, including no-fly zones, on the ground ceasefire observers, and coordinated delivery of humanitarian assistance." The statement was made prior to traveling to the G20 summit in Munich, where Tillerson and President Trump planned to meet Russian leadership to discuss Syria. Tillerson's statement also stated that Russia has a responsibility to ensure that no faction illegitimately re-takes or occupies areas liberated from ISIS' or other terrorist groups' control, and to prevent any further use of chemical weapons of any kind by the Assad government.PolicyCommentRussia CooperationUS State Dept.; TSITillerson's comments are the latest in an apparent trajectory adjustment for US policy in Syria, which will allow Russia a far greater role in determining the outcome of the Syrian conflict.
05.04.2017Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley spoke about the Khan Sheikhoun chemical weapons attack at the Security CouncilSpeaking at an emergency UN Security Council meeting, Haley condemned the use of chemical weapons at Khan Sheikhoun and was highly critical of Russia, saying that the Assad regime has no incentive to stop chemical attacks while Russia continues to protect it from consequences. Haley also asserted that the Assad government was illegitimate, and stated that Assad, Russia, and Iran have no interest in peace in Syria and that both Russia and Iran shared the blame for the 04 April Khan Sheikhoun. She said that the international community had failed to prevent the use of chemical weapons, compelling the US to take action, telling the Council: "United States will no longer wait for Assad to use chemical weapons without any consequences. Those days are over." Haley also said that preventing the spread and use of chemical weapons is a vital US security interest, and warned that the US was prepared to take similar steps should the Syrian regime use chemical weapons again.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionUSUN; TSIHer comments particularly on the role of Assad seem at odd with those made just days earlier, which indicated that the US does not see the removal of Assad as a priority. Her remarks are much more strongly worded than those of Sean Spicer or Rex Tillerson.
04.04.2017White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer commented on Khan Sheikhoun chemical weapons attackSpicer read a statement prepared by the President Trump's office regarding the Khan Sheikhoun attack, saying it was "reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world." The statement also made reference to the unenforced "red line" against chemical weapons use that was issued by President Obama. Spicer said that the President was discussing the matter with his national security team. In response to a question, Spicer said: "There is not a fundamental option of regime change as there has been in the past." He also referred reporters to the statements of UN Ambassador Haley and Secretary of State Tillerson.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionWhite House; TSIThree days later, the US launched missiles at Assad's airbase.
04.05.2017State Department statement on Astana agreement and concerns of Iran as guarantorState Department spokeswoman Heather Nuart released a statement about the Astana de-escalation zones agreement created by Russia, Turkey, and Iran. The statement noted that the US supports any genuine efforts to de-escalate violence in Syria, but that it was not a party to the agreement. It expressed particular concerns about the role of Iran as a guarantor, saying: "Iran's activities in Syria have only contributed to the violence, not stopped it, and Iran's unquestioning support for the Assad regime has perpetuated the misery of ordinary Syrians."PolicyCommentConflict ResolutionUS State Dept.; TSI
05.04.2017President Donald Trump commented on chemical weapons attack in SyriaDuring a press conference, President Trump said that the images of victims of the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun had a big impact on him and his "attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much."PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionWhite House; TSI
04.02.2017US airstrike killed an al-Qaeda leader near IdlibA US airstrike in Idlib killed Abu Hani al-Masri, a senior Al-Qaeda figure with ties to Awman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden. The Pentagon announced the death four days later.MilitaryDirect ActionAl QaedaUS CENTCOM; TSI
28.06.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commented on the future of AssadTillerson reportedly told UN Secretary General Guterres that "What happens to Assad is Russia’s issue, not the US government’s,” during a private meeting.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionForeign Policy; TSI
04.04.2017Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement on the Khan Sheikhoun chemical weapons attackSecretary Tillerson issued a brief statement condemning the 04 April Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, laying the blame on Assad. He called upon Russia and Iran "yet again," to exercise influence over the Assad regime and said that they share moral responsibility for the deaths of those killed in the attack.PolicyCommentAssad CoalitionUS State Dept.; TSIHis comments are notably weaker than UN Ambassador Haley's, particularly those directed at Russia.
03.07.2017US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) entered Raqqa's Old CityBacked by US-led Coalition airstrikes, the SDF breached the Rafiqa wall that surrounds the Old City of Raqqa and entered the area, marking a milestone in the offensive to recapture the city from ISIS. Speaking on the latest development in the Raqqa offensive, Colonel Ryan Dillon stated "Coalition forces are making a great effort to protect civilians and preserve these sites for future generations."MilitaryOperationPartner ActionUS CENTCOM; TSI
01.06.2017CJTF-OIR Spokesman said US increased military footprint in southern SyriaIn response to a question during a media briefing, CJTF-OIR spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon said that there are several hundred US and Coalition partner forces in southern Syrian, and that they had increased their combat power, presence, and footprint, in response to the threat from pro-government militias amassing outside of the 55 kilometer "deconfliction zone" around al-Tanf. the US increased its military footprint at the al-Tanf garrison in southern Syria in response to acts of aggression from pro-government militia in the area. Dillon stated there were several hundred of both coalition forces and their partners.MilitaryOperationUS ActionUS Dept. of Defense; TSI