Green Berets in Syria frustrated with “micromanagement” by staff supervisors, some with no combat experience

A U.S. fighter stands near a military vehicle, north of Raqqa city, Syria November 6, 2016. (Credit: Rodi Said / Reuters)

U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers on the front lines of Syria have come forward to express their frustration about how the oversight of their mission to “train, advise, and assist” the rebels to defeat the Islamic State has made it more difficult.

A source among the Army’s elite Special Forces, who has chosen to remain anonymous due to the Special Force’s classified mission, said their staff leaders have criticized their actions on the ground, that have sometimes required them to join the fight despite their “train, advise and assist” mission.

The solider’s are expected to act in accordance with Section 1209 of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which ““comes with lots of rules and scrutiny from Congress and the Defense Department, so we had to be very deliberate on how we execute this program,” according to the source.

The soldiers, who have been drawn into the fighting while “assisting” in Syria, said they have been overly critiqued by supervisors after returning to their forward operating base (FOB).

A source told the Washington Times: “They sometimes take risk and do stuff, and when they get back to camp, they get a phone call. ‘What the [expletive] were you doing?”

Supervisors use reconnaissance aircraft to supervise their operations and then criticize their performance, according to the source.

“Based on the very high-level approval required to conduct operations, it can be extremely frustrating for the teams,” said a military officer.

“We just don’t have the latitude we had during our years in Iraq, and that can be frustrating for the teams. The progress over the last year has been slow. Each team may not see it during their rotation, but cumulatively we’ve made significant progress against Daesh while maintaining relationships with Turkey and Jordan. In my many years in Special Forces, I’ve never been involved with a more complex mission.”

A second Special Forces source blames too many supervisors trying to micromanage a force that has traditionally worked more autonomously that regular ground forces.  The source claims the ratio or watchers to Special Forces soldiers in Syria is 50/50.

“For every guy you’ve got on the ground there, there’s some staff guy that hasn’t ever deployed,” the source said. “Or some colonel who wants to be involved, and he’s the assist to the assistant to the assistant.”

Col. Kevin C. Leahy, of the the 5th Special Force groups, corroborated the anonymous source’s complaints of too much support oversight.

“They are right on top-heavy. There is a sizable amount of people required to provide intel, fires, logistics and vetting of rebels/groups, liaison with host nation partners, U.S. country teams, etc. The teams really are the tip of an inverse triangle of support/Hq needed to enable the mission. Unfortunately, whether you have one team or ten in the field, you still need all of the support,” he said.

On the other hand, he did contend that the soldier’s in his command are not not being micromanaged by his subordinates.

“We provide lots of latitude on how guys work with various groups. Of course to accomplish goals we have to tell them what we want done, but we let them figure out how to do it. I can only discuss Syria, but can firmly say I and my subordinate leaders do not micromanage.”

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