The answer is probably not much at all. UK special forces personnel (SAS or possibly the Special Boat Service) are operating with limited numbers in Syria, assisting the alleged moderate opposition group New Syrian Army to fight and defend against IS.
IS have attacked New Syrian Army locations previously and the presence of British Special Forces may well act as a magnet for IS attacks seeking to capture or kill UK forces for propaganda purposes. However this would not be easy, fighting ability and close air support would make any such scenario very difficult for IS.
- Washington Post article (06 Jul 2016) – U.S. jets abandoned Syrian rebels in the desert. Then they lost a battle to ISIS:
The problem is the New Syrian Army is not a large force especially when compared to IS themselves or other fundamentalist Islamic groups operating in Syria such as Jabhat Fateh al Sham (formerly Jabhat al Nusrah), Ahrar al Sham or the Army of Islam. The Kurdish YPG also fight in Syria and Iraq, proving time and again to be the most effective ground force fighting IS.
To give a bit of context to this, the New Syrian Army number approximately 1000, fundamentalist Sunni Islamic group Ahrar al Sham number approximately 10,000-20,000 alone.
Should IS and Syrian government forces eventually be defeated on the ground in Syria, it is difficult to see what the New Syrian Army role would be going forward. The presence of large fundamentalist Islamic opposition groups fighting to establish Sharia Law would easily smother any attempt made by the alleged moderate New Syrian Army to establish democracy.
An internal conflict between opposition groups of all types would inevitably ensue in a bid to gain power as seen previously in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. In short, the New Syrian Army with its small numbers would be wiped out if it still existed at this time, regardless of US and UK support.
Ultimately it appears to be a limited venture with negligible benefits, a real risk to UK personnel and no doubt at large expense to the tax payer.
- BBC News article / video (08 Aug 2016) – First look at Britain’s secretive and lethal force in Syria:
Previous related post on The WIDER View:
- IS release video allegedly showing New Syrian Army members being taught how to communicate with US Airforce