In the last few weeks of “surrounding” the ISIS capital city of Raqqa before invading it, US and Kurdish forces attacked and captured the nearby Syrian city of Tabqa away from ISIS. Now, they’re in charge of a city with 50,000+ people, and a lot of problems.
Officials are presenting Tabqa as a “dry run” for trying out the Trump Administration’s post-ISIS strategy in Syria before they have to try it in the much bigger city of Raqqa. This strategy, however, is just to delegate everything to the Pentagon and insist that what they’re doing isn’t “nation-building.”
In practice, they’re shipping in flour en masse so the population doesn’t starve to death, while trying to organize the locals for reconstruction programs that are going to be long, complicated, and expensive. No electricity, no hospital, no fuel, and the engineers they have say they can’t get the old Soviet-era parts needed to fix anything.
The question of who’s going to pay for all this stuff is left unanswered, with US officials expressing hope that at some point the Assad government will start paying everyone’s salaries just to prove they still own the city. Things like power plants and hospitals, the stuff that used to be the bread and butter of “nation building,” seems like it’s going to be the Pentagon.