USA deploys 400 extra troops to Syria
- Author: Leroy Wright Mar 13, 2017,
Mar 13, 2017, 3:19
The latest dispatch of around 200 Marines into northern Syria brings the number of U.S. boots on the ground in Syria close to more than 700.
The US is allied with both the Turkey-backed rebels and Kurdish fighter groups - but those factions bitterly oppose each other, and fighting has recently broken out between the two.
The main Syrian Kurdish force fighting Islamic State militants in northern Syria said Friday that it has enough fighters to take the extremists' de facto capital of Raqqa with the help of the USA -led coalition - remarks that reflect a veiled warning to Ankara and also to rival, Turkey-backed opposition forces making headway toward the city.
Moreover, while the USA and their coalition claims to be working to defeat IS in Raqqa, various reports state that the US - led coalition is carrying out airstrikes that target Syrian civilians, military, and infrastructure. They are preparing to move in to assault the city of Raqqa, IS's self-declared capital, according to reports.
Asked about a deployment of U.S forces near the northern city of Manbij, Syrian President Assad said: "Any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation. are invaders". He said the troops include U.S. Army Rangers already in Syria.
Their positions will be about 20 miles away from IS-controlled areas.
During his presidential campaign, Trump frequently asserted that he would defeat ISIS, who claims Raqqa, Syria, as its de facto capital city.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main USA partner in Syria, this week cut the road from Raqqa to ISIL's stronghold in Deir Al-Zor - the last main road out of Raqqa - and declared it would reach the city limits within a few weeks.
"The number of our forces is now increasing, particularly from among the people of the area, and we have enough strength to liberate Raqqa with support from the coalition forces", the SDF spokeswoman, Jihan Ahmed, said. But the main Kurdish militia in the group is seen as a terrorist organization by Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member which also has its sights on Raqqa.
Mr Assad told a Chinese TV station the war, which began as an uprising in 2011, would take "a few months" if "we don't have foreign intervention".
The plan is awaiting final approval from the administration, but USA soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, have already received permission for deployment from Army leaders, should the plan be signed.
Meanwhile, Rami Abdul-Rahman, the head of the Observatory monitor group, said that the major battle for Raqqa is "very close". Careful coordination will be required to keep US and Russian forces from accidentally firing on each other.
Turkey wants Raqqa liberated by Syrian Arab troops it trained and supported in recent battles to free the cities of Al Bab and Jarabolus from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.