Special Ops Forces deployed to Syria are under extremely tight ROEs (Rules of Engagement), according to an article from August 11, 2016 in Bloomberg. Interestingly, back in October of 2015, it was claimed those rules had been loosened.
Embed and Accompany or Last Cover and Concealment?
In a SOFREP article dated October 2015, Jack Murphy wrote:
Furthermore, we are also told that the Rules of Engagement (ROE) for both Syria and Iraq are being changed. While SOF engaged in fighting ISIS have previously be restrained to an “advise and assist” mission, the ROE will now become “embed and accompany.” This is also a de facto acknowledgement that Iraqi soldiers are unwilling to fight for their own country without direct American and Coalition involvement. The Kurds will fight with or without America, but this is not true for Arab Iraqi troops, excluding small numbers of ISOF and ISWAT units.
Syria rules different than Iraq?
But on August 11 we find a Bloomberg report that commanders are telling the Special Ops Forces, “Don’t get shot.”
That’s right, we’re not on a combat mission. I remember now. They must really mean “duck and cover.” That’s how we win respect with our coalition partners and even the enemy.
But the rules in place, known as “last cover and concealment,” are highly restrictive compared to special operations missions in the war on terror before 2014. Those rules of engagement allowed for U.S. special operators to fight alongside the local forces they trained. The rules of engagement for Syria, according to one military officer, amount to: “don’t get shot.” Bloomberg article
“Our mission in Iraq and Syria is to enable local forces in defeating ISIL — with air support, intel support, training and equipment. Our forces always have the right to defend themselves, but they do not engage directly in offensive combat operations.” Major Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway, a spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of Defense
Some legislators such as Mac Thornberry, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, are concerned about the restrictions.
There appears to be some confusion as to what the rules actually are for the 300 or so Special Forces Operatives in Syria.
ROEs are always a sore spot when they are so restrictive that the forces can’t engage the enemy with any real strength.