Pentagon could send conventional military forces to Syria

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WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is developing proposals to send an unknown number of U.S. military personnel to Syria, conventional ground forces that would augment the 500 combat advisers already there by coordinating efforts to destroy Islamic State.

First reported Wednesday by CNN, such a deployment should be approved by President Donald Trump. However, the commander-in-chief has called on military leaders to speed up plans to defeat the terrorist group and, according to White House documents leaked to the media late last month, he has expressed willingness to expand the presence. of the United States in a war-torn country. Syria.

Defense ministry officials have neither confirmed nor denied the report.

“We are in the process of conducting our 30-day review of the strategy to defeat ISIS as directed by the president,” said Captain (Navy) Jeff Davis, spokesman for the Pentagon. ISIS is another name for the Islamic State. “We are considering a number of steps to speed up the campaign as part of this review, but no decision has been made.”

A spokesperson for the U.S. Central Command, which oversees ISIS’s campaign in Syria and neighboring Iraq, told the Military Times that no deployment announcements were imminent.

However, several US military sources have indicated that around two thousand soldiers of the 2nd Combat Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division may soon reinforce other elements of the military already present in the region. Currently, approximately 1,800 paratroopers from 2e BCT are in Iraq to participate in the US Army’s training and advisory mission. The 82nd Airborne Division is based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Citing an unidentified U.S. defense official, CNN said additional deployments could take place in a few weeks.

Today there are approximately 5,000 American troops deployed in Iraq and another 500 in Syria. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is “actively engaged with his combatant commanders and commanders on the ground to listen to their recommendations and provide them with the resources and authorities they need to accelerate the defeat of ISIS,” said Davis.

Since becoming Commander-in-Chief, Trump has vowed to put more pressure on the Islamic State, whose de facto capital, Raqqa, is located in northern Syria. Several thousand American allies – a group known collectively as the Syrian Democratic Forces – are engaged in an offensive to liberate the city.

Any large-scale deployment of conventional US military forces would represent a marked departure from the strategy advocated by Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, who instead hoped to rely on small teams of special forces to train and advise the mosaic. militias with an interest in the defeat of the militant group.

The battlefield there is complicated by several factors, not the least of which is the six-year civil war in Syria and the presence of Russian warplanes supporting forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In addition, Turkey has significant combat elements on the ground fighting the Islamic State in and around al Bab, which is about 200 kilometers west of Raqqa. Last week, a Russian airstrike killed three Turkish soldiers in what Moscow called a friendly fire incident.

The Turks, meanwhile, oppose the Syrian Kurdish forces which have proven to be the most competent and reliable US ally in Syria. This polarizing dynamic has strained relations between Washington and Ankara in recent months.

It is not known how additional US ground troops would be brought to bear in Syria. US commanders have said there is an urgent need to release Raqqa, as intelligence services have indicated that ISIS militants are actively planning attacks against the United States and its allies in the Middle East and Europe.

The White House also said last month it could task the military with establishing “safe zones” in Syria for the estimated 11 million refugees who have been forced to leave their homes as a result of the violence there. .

This prospect, described in an early version of the controversial presidential decree to ban migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, has proven to be extremely sensitive. Some estimates suggest that for this to happen, the US-led coalition would need to deploy more than 30,000 troops on the ground. Such a commitment could prove deeply unpopular both in the United States and abroad.

Andrew deGrandpre is editor of the Military Times and chief of the Pentagon bureau. On Twitter: @adegrandpre.

Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times. On Twitter: @ MichelleTan32.

Shawn Snow is the Early Bird editor of Military Times. On Twitter: @ SnowSox184

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Michelle Tan is the editor of Army Times and Air Force Times. She has covered the military for Military Times since 2005, and has integrated US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Haiti, Gabon and the Horn of Africa.

Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for the Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.



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