Pentagon considering proposing combat troops in Syria
- Author: Leroy Wright Feb 16, 2017,
Feb 16, 2017, 4:41
President Donald Trump's first instructions to Defense Secretary James Mattis were to formulate a strategy against Islamic State, and a plan is due by the end of February.
The US Department of Defense continues to explore options to accelerate the defeat of Daesh as directed by President Donald Trump, but no decisions on further US troop deployments to Syria have been made, a department spokesman told Sputnik.
It is the sole quote in the report, but CNN sources multiple USA officials as clarifying that this is just a concept, not a formal proposal.
What makes the number of militants killed hard to put into context is the wide variance between estimates of how many Islamic State fighters there are to begin with.
Another goal of a USA ground "presence would be to help reassure Turkey that Kurdish forces are not posing a threat to Ankara's interests", according to CNN. It's possible some troops would deploy first to Kuwait and then move into Syria.
The Obama administration never embraced the idea of ground combat troops because of the inherent risks involved.
At his confirmation hearing, Mattis was not asked about putting more troops into Syria, but he did explain how he would seek to change United States military efforts in Iraq and Syria from Obama administration. "I don't know that that resonates in [the] United States about the nature of the threat and how aggressively we're getting after it, because I think that might assuage some of the concerns about how we are able to get after an enemy, a declared enemy of the United States", he noted. Any decision to deploy troops would rest with President Donald Trump, who repeatedly criticized the USA invasion of Iraq on the campaign trail but has promised to "bomb the shit" out of the Islamic State. In 2014, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimated that there were 100,000 Isis fighters in Iraq and Syria. As a result, troops have largely been deployed on an individual basis depending on how many trainers and advisers are needed.
CNN also reports that Trump may be advised to increase or disregard altogether the U.S. troop limit in Iraq, which is set at 5,262 not counting temporary assignments. There are hundreds more temporarily assigned that are not counted under the ceiling. Commanders say this will give them more flexibility in operations, but it also will increase the number of troops there, something the Iraqi government would have to agree to. Turkey is hostile toward the US -backed YPG, a group of Kurdish rebels that has established an autonomous zone in northern Syria and is allied with the Kurdish rebel group in Turkey, the PKK.