The Obama Administration on Friday announced the deployment of up to 50 Special Forces troops to Syria to advise on a new military campaign against ISIS. This is the first sustained U.S. ground presence in the country.
WASHINGTON—The U.S. is sending special-operations forces to northeastern Syria, a shift in strategy that establishes the first sustained American military presence in the campaign against Islamic State in the war-ravaged country.
Up to 50 U.S. special-operations troops will assist Syrian rebel units spearheading what the Pentagon says would be a new military offensive against the militant group, marking a sharp escalation in the level of direct U.S. involvement on the ground inside Syria. The American forces are to link up with local forces in Kurdish-controlled territory whose mission will be to choke off supply lines to Islamic State militants in their Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.
The move marks a change for President Barrack Obama who had long promised not to send ground forces to Syria.
“They are not being deployed with a combat mission,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. “The mission of our men and women on the ground has not changed.”
If the initial deployment bears fruit, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Friday that he would be open to deploying more forces.
“We are going to continue to innovate, to build on what works,” Mr. Carter told reporters on a military jet as it landed in Fairbanks, Alaska, for the first leg of a trip through Asia. “Our role fundamentally and the strategy is to enable local forces. But does that put U.S. forces in harm’s way? It does, no question about it.”