U.S. Sends Civilian Team to Syria to Help the Displaced Return Home

“It is a minimalist approach that should be adequate to get them through the first few weeks, but beyond that, there are going to be problems that may require a more substantial effort,” said James F. Dobbins, who served as a special envoy to Afghanistan, Somalia, Haiti and the Balkans.

The decision to send the team into the combat zone followed extensive deliberations in the American government about security, with memories still fresh about the 2012 attack on the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, an attack that led to the deaths of the United States ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans. The roughly 1,000 American troops already in Syria will help protect the civilian team against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

“Our efforts in post-ISIS areas will be strictly focused on stabilization and thus meeting the immediate needs of civilians in order to enable them to return home and to prevent the return of ISIS,” the State Department said in a statement on Thursday in response to a request for comment. “The efforts are limited to the provision of humanitarian assistance, clearing explosive remnants of war, and the restoration of essential services.”

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pointed to the need for a broader civilian mission, suggesting in remarks this week that it include “an ongoing effort, led by the State Department, to put together a governance body so that as soon as Raqqa is seized, there is effective local governance.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in testimony last week before Congress, said the administration did not yet have “a fully fleshed out” strategy for maintaining stability in Syria and Iraq after the Islamic State is defeated.

Mr. Mattis said he was consulting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on a larger strategy that includes both diplomatic and military components. “His diplomats…

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