Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has asserted several times, and quite vociferously, that there will be “no American ground troops in Syria” if she is elected president in November.
While the definition of “ground troops” is flexible, there is a second reality that very few people are talking about in Washington today.
Not unlike the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq—where private military contractors fed, trained, equipped, and protected U.S. military forces “on the ground” in unprecedented numbers—an escalation of hired security forces in a hot spot like Syria would likely boost the presence of U.S. “boots” without causing the political heartburn of putting more actual soldiers and Marines in harm’s way.
In fact, it may already be happening.
Over the summer, a no-bid contract was reportedly awarded to Six3 Intelligence Solutions, a company based in McLean, Va., which in 2014 was acquired by major defense-industry player CACI International. The $10 million award, according to an otherwise pedestrian Pentagon notice, was for “intelligence analysis services” to be performed “in Germany, Italy, and Syria.” It was probably the first sliver of proof that U.S. contractors are actually operating there, despite persistent evasions by military officials.