Syria Deeply quotes Rafik Hariri Center Senior Fellow Frederic Hof on the buffer zone proposal in Syria and the US containment strategy regarding the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham:
We spoke to Ambassador Frederic Hof, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former adviser on Syria to U.S. President Barack Obama, about the perils of the current policy. He spoke to Syria Deeply about rebel groups, buffer zones and the ISIS strategy as it stands.
Syria Deeply: Let’s start with the U.S. effort to arm and train Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. In view of the more active U.S. role on the ground, what is right or wrong with how it’s being done?
Hof: The concept is not bad. What’s needed in Syria in the battle against ISIS is a ground component. You can’t chase these guys around with airplanes unless you want to devote many years to the task. If you look at the various candidates who can fulfill that role, you come down very quickly to the Syrian Nationalist Opposition to the Assad regime. For one thing, they have to fight ISIS and are being attacked by them, particularly in the Aleppo area. Calling on the regime to do it would be a useless undertaking. Assad has demonstrated an ability to work hand in glove with ISIS, and it is clear that he is part of the problem.
Syria Deeply: Is it too little, too late?
Hof: I don’t think we can make that assumption. We have to move as quickly as possible. It needs to move much more quickly. My sense is that its going to be a troubled undertaking unless there is some for of a protected zone inside Syria, where existing units can be called upon to jump start the recruiting process. If this is going to be done exclusively in places like Turkey, Jordan or various locations in the Gulf, it will fall short of producing the requisite numbers of trained personnel in an acceptable period of time.