Published: Fri, March 17, 2017
Global | By Doris Richards

Defense Officials: US to Send 1000 More Ground Troops to Syria

Defense Officials: US to Send 1000 More Ground Troops to Syria

USA conventional forces could also be used in stabilization operations in Syria after the initial local force assault on ISIS's capital of Raqqa, Army Gen. Joseph Votel intimated to Congress Thursday.

The troop surge would mark a significant shift away from the Obama administration, which refused to deploy conventional ground troops into Syria, though a small number of special operations forces operate in the war-torn country. Currently, there are roughly 500 USA special operations forces in Syria operating alongside the SDF, plus another 250 Rangers and 200 Marines.

The US could double the number of ground troops it has in Syria over the next few weeks, the Washington Post reports.

The US-backed Arab-Kurdish alliance leading the offensive to surround and recapture the Islamic State group's main bastion in Syria now comprises mainly Arab fighters, a US official said Wednesday.

The decision could bring USA troops into closer contact with the enemy and deepen the military's involvement in a conflict marked by numerous armed factions with conflicting priorities.

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The U.S. military's plans to deploy 1,000 more troops is pending approval from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis after which, it can increase direct combat involvement in a conflict zone that has seen Russian, Turkish and Syrian opposition forces operating together, the Post reported. The new U.S. troops, if approved, would probably come from parts of both the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit - a flotilla of ships loaded with 2,200 Marines that is now steaming toward the region - and the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division, of which 2,500 recently arrived in Kuwait. At the moment, those limits are set at 5,000 in Iraq and 500 in Syria. Two U.S. defense officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity told Stars and Stripes that no decision has been made and there was no imminent movement planned.

The U.S. command said 13 strikes engaged targets including eight IS tactical units, four vehicles, a fighting position and an IS headquarters near Raqqa.

"They can observe each other's movement", Dorrian said.

At the same time, the Syrian leader praised the role of Iran in his country's civil war, saying that "they support Syria in fighting terrorists, they support Syria politically". On Tuesday, Trump met at the White House with Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi deputy crown prince and defense minister.

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