U.S. trying to avoid a 'Turkey-Kurdish conflict' in Syria, general says

The number of US troops now authorized to be in Syria is capped at 503, though that amount does not include the 400 Marines and Army Rangers because they are on a temporary deployment, a defense official said.

Islamic State is also being fought in Syria by the Russian-backed Syrian military, and by Syrian rebel groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner with Turkish backing in northern Syria and Jordanian backing in southern Syria.

Ilnur Cevik, an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, expressed concerns about the Pentagon's support for Kurds after CENTCOM published pictures of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) being trained by the US-led coalition.

Earlier, SDF spokesman Talal Silo said, referring to Raqqa, that they "expect that within a few weeks there will be a siege of the city".

In line with this strategy, a couple hundred Marines were deployed into Syria with heavy artillery guns, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday, as part of the ongoing preparations to oust the IS from its self-declared capital of Raqqa. The news comes after the announcement from President Donald Trump's administration about a conference with ministers from 68 countries to be held in Washington over two days on March 22 and 23, which will focus on defeating ISIS.

But it is despised by Ankara, who condemns the group's dominant component - the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) - as "terrorists" because of its links to an outlawed Kurdish militia in Turkey.

The official said while the fight for western Mosul is tough in complex, urban terrain, the United States is confident in the Iraqi's plan and willingness to eradicate ISIS with the support of the coalition.

Under the existing limits put in place by the Obama administration, the military can have up to 503 US forces in Syria.

The additional deployment comprises a total of 400 US forces - both Marines and Army Rangers.

Operation Euphrates Rage, aimed at liberating Raqqa from Daesh, was launched by the SDF on November 5, 2016.

In what many say is an indication the Trump White House will allow the Pentagon to operate with greater independence and flexibility than the previous administration, hundreds of U.S. Marines with heavy artillery were deployed to Syria on Thursday.

Syrian forces- joined by a US Marines artillery unit - put the heat on ISIS jihadists, as they closed in on the jihadists' de-facto capital of Raqqa on Thursday. The amphibious task force was taken off Navy ships at the US Special Forces base at Djibouti, flown into Kuwait and then into Syria, a Pentagon official told the Washington Post.

The US believes the pressure on ISIS in Raqqa is working. SDF spokesman Silo said the SDF had ruled out that idea during a meeting with US officials last month.

As Islamic State terrorist officials began their escape, the group issued new decrees meant to keep civilians in the city to be used as human shields when the battle for Raqqa begins.

"The Marines answer a problem that the [operation] has faced", the official said according to WaPo.

  • Leroy Wright