Hagel Blasts Syria Strategy in Memo

Says Strategy Not Clarifying Intentions Toward Assad

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice which was deeply critical of the administration’s military strategy in the ongoing ISIS war in Syria, saying the plan was “in danger of unraveling.”

The memo, described by officials familiar with it, centered on the lack of an endgame strategy as well as the inability of the administration to clarify its intentions toward the Assad government.

Hagel warned the fighting in Syria could go on for years without any clear end, and that Syrian President Bashar Assad was deriving benefits from the US campaign.

The memo was much more critical than Hagel has been in comments publicly, and he declined to discuss the specifics of the memo, saying only that he felt he owes the president “honesty.”

The lack of an endgame strategy has been something analysts have been pointing out for quite some time, as the US talks up backing a moderate rebel force that they haven’t even begun attempting to create, and which is going to take at least a year to be in any sort of form. Hagel’s memo acknowledges this in a way that officials haven’t publicly, and suggests that even if they don’t want to admit it, the problem is very much on their minds.

The issue with Assad is even more complicated, as the administration publicly insists it still wants regime change, but is clearly coordinating, at least secretly, with the Syrian military.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.