Tags: ISIS/Islamic State | Syria | special operations | forces | syria | isis

US Sending Special Ops Forces to Join ISIS Fight in Syria

US Sending Special Ops Forces to Join ISIS Fight in Syria

Friday, 30 October 2015 01:45 PM

The U.S. will intensify its military action in Syria, deploying fewer than 50 special operations forces inside the country for the first time to help coordinate the fight against Islamic State, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday.

The new action represents an escalation of the U.S. fight against the terrorist group in Syria, where Russia has begun its own air campaign against rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. U.S. officials have complained that the Russians have largely targeted moderate rebel forces instead of Islamic State militants.

President Barack Obama has repeatedly said that local forces must lead the fight against Islamic State, with training and assistance from the U.S. A White House official, who asked not to be identified in advance of an announcement, said in an e-mail that the special operations forces would coordinate local ground forces and the U.S.-led coalition engaging with Islamic State.

"I certainly wouldn’t underestimate the capability and capacity of our U.S. Special Operations Forces to be an important force multiplier anywhere around the world where they’re deployed," Earnest told reporters, responding to a question about what difference 50 troops can make.

He acknowledged that the deployment, which is open-ended, won’t fundamentally shift the balance on the battlefield. He also wouldn’t rule out a further escalation.

“There is no military solution to the problems plaguing Iraq and Syria,” he said.

Vienna Talks

Diplomats from 19 countries are attempting to broker a political resolution to the Syrian civil war in Vienna. Assad’s future remains a divisive point, as Western nations have sought his ouster while his ally, Russia, wants a power-sharing agreement that would allow him to stay in office.

The official said the U.S. would also bolster forces stationed at Incirlik air base in Turkey, adding A-10 ground attack planes and F-15 fighters for the air campaign against Islamic State.

Sunni Forces

A U.S. defense official said that the Special Operations forces would be based in northeast Syria, embedded with Sunni Arab forces, not Kurdish forces. Their mission is to train and equip the Arab forces, the official said, requesting anonymity to discuss details of the deployment. The forces will have the capacity to direct U.S. air strikes if necessary, the official said.

Earnest insisted that the U.S. forces “do not have a combat mission.” He contrasted the deployment to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq under former President George W. Bush. Obama “does not believe that military operation was in our best interest” and shouldn’t be repeated, he said.

Congressional Republicans, who have been critical of Obama’s approach to battling Islamic State, said the administration still hasn’t come up with a coherent plan in the region. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, called the deployment “yet another tactical move in the absence of a comprehensive strategy for Iraq, Syria, and the broader Middle East.”

Congress has failed to act on a White House request for specific authorization for use of military force against Islamic State.

Revised Strategy

Obama instructed his advisers to examine new ways to confront Islamic State after a largely failed attempt to train and equip moderate rebels in Syria, the White House official said. The U.S. is moving away from tactics that have proven to be ineffective, the official said.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the U.S. was prepared to conduct "opportunistic attacks" against Islamic State forces in Syria, including "direct action on the ground."

The U.S. will also seek to establish a special operations task force with the Iraqi government and increase assistance to Jordan and Lebanon to fight Islamic State, the official said.

A member of a U.S. special operations team was killed this month in a raid on an Islamic State-controlled prison in Iraq that freed about 70 hostages. In May, U.S. commandos killed a senior Islamic State commander in a raid into Syria.

Citing the operation in which the soldier was killed, Carter told reporters this week, "of course that’s combat." While it’s clear that there are U.S. "boots on the ground" in the fight against Islamic State, he said, the overall strategy is to support local forces "rather than substitute for them."

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The U.S. will intensify its military action in Syria, deploying fewer than 50 special operations forces inside the country for the first time to help coordinate the fight against Islamic State, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
special operations, forces, syria, isis
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2015-45-30
Friday, 30 October 2015 01:45 PM
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