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By Saagar Enjeti
President Donald Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis are reviewing plans to send 1,000 more U.S. conventional forces to Syria to aid assault on the Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa, The Washington Post reports.
The new troops would likely be a mixture of service members from the U.S. Army and Marine Corps stationed nearby. The Pentagon previously announced the deployment of an additional 2,500 troops to Kuwait, which could be called upon by U.S. military ground commanders leading the assault against ISIS.
These additional 1,000 troops would join the nearly 1,000 U.S. forces already in Syria. Approximately half of these forces are U.S. special operators training, advising and assisting local Syrian forces. The other half of the forces are U.S. Marines setting up artillery support for these local forces. The additional conventional forces are likely to play the same role as current U.S. special operators, defense officials told WaPo.
U.S. 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 Trump administration is significantly increasing the number of U.S. personnel inside Syria to support the assault.
Defense officials also said U.S. Arab allied troops may also join the effort.
“Basically you would have a force bolstered by allies with U.S. leadership,” one source told WaPo. This element of the plan may have been discussed by Saudi Arabian Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin-Salman and Trump in a Tuesday Oval Office meeting.
These additional forces are likely part of are likely part of a larger facet of a new Pentagon plan to “eradicate” ISIS. Trump campaigned heavily on a promise to defeat the terrorist group and ordered Mattis to deliver a series of options to the White House to get rid of the group.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience in late February it would be “a political-military plan.”
“The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed,” Dunford continued.