April 14, 2015
After four years of conflict in Syria, peace is still a distant prospect. The West insists that there is no "military solution," while Iran and Russia provide the Assad regime with a military advantage obstructing the possibility of real diplomatic negotiations. With over 220,000 Syrians dead and more than half of the Syrian population displaced, the need for peace is critical.

In Setting the Stage for Peace in Syria: The Case for a Syrian National Stabilization Force, Frederic C. Hof of the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Bassma Kodmani of the Arab Reform Initiative, and Jeffrey White of the Washington Institute, present a new way forward—a sort of train-and-equip on steroids—the Syrian National Stabilization Force (SNSF).

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The proposed SNSF would be a three-division force of 50,000 or more Syrians, able to defeat any enemies standing in the way of a legitimate, inclusive Syria. The force would be truly Syrian at its basis, made up of patriotic officers and soldiers seeking an alternative to the rule of Bashar al-Assad, and under the control of a Syrian national command authority.

The authors write that in order to create this force, the United States would have to take the lead. They argue that the Obama administration must take the current train-and-equip program to the next level—putting it on steroids, so to speak. Through US-led efforts, Hof, Kodmani, and White propose that the international community establish air exclusion zones, free of regime aircraft and terrorizing barrel bombs, where the Syrian national command authority would establish itself and the new Syrian Army can take root. The authors stress that the United States and its allies should be prepared to provide air support to protect the new Syrian Army ground combat forces, and commit financial and material support for force sustainment. Hof, Kodmani, and White emphasize that Syrian input and oversight is absolutely essential, whether in establishment of the SNSF or execution of the current train-and-equip initiative.

The establishment of the SNSF is a complex task—far more complicated than merely recruitment, vetting, training, and equipping. But given the humanitarian abomination currently taking place at the hands of the Assad regime, ISIL, and other extremist forces—the United States' commitment to this task, together with its allies, is necessary. The proposed force can be a new army for a united Syria, and it can set the stage for a much needed peace.

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