In the coming weeks the US plans to send up to 1,000 additional troops to Syria just ahead of the Raqqa offensive.
If the deployment is approved by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the president it would double the number of troops on the ground in Syria, and is a sign the US plans to expand their presence in the conflict.
In February, Trump gave the Pentagon 30 days to come up with a new plan to take on ISIS. In recent weeks US Army Rangers have been sent to Manbij, west of Raqqi, to deter Russian, Turkish and Syrian forces operating in the area, and a Marine artillery battery is being deployed near Raqqi.
The increase of troops in Syria would be a marked departure from the Obama Administration who resisted the commitment of ground troops into that war-torn area.
The new troops, that would add to the number of about 500 special operations forces in Syria, would most likely go as advisers to a coalition of Kurds and Arabs engaging in the fight against ISIS. Those troops would help with coordinating air attacks and aiding in bomb disposal, according to reports.
It’s likely the cap on troop numbers in Syria will be lifted by the Trump Administration. The Obama Administration had capped the number of troops in Syria at 500 and the number in Iraq at 5,000.
The new purge of US troops will allow them to fight as they train, a defense department official said. He said the newest “military doctrine promotes agility, and it would help us respond as conditions dictate.”
Turkey offered to commit ground forces to help seize Razza, but their help has been complicated by the Turkish insistence that its participation depends on the US severing ties with the Syrian Kurdish fighting group, the People’s Protection Units, or YPG. At the same time, the Pentagon sees the YPG as the most effective local fighting force. Turkey, on the other hand, has labeled the YPG as a terrorist organization.
There are many factions at odds with one another in Syria, and it’s hoped the increased US presence will help relieve some of that tension and not make it worse.
Also in Syria, the Russians are currently committed to an air campaign that backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while US and their NATO-ally Turkey, are backing rebel forces in both the fight against Assad and ISIS. It would appear the US and Russians do not seek the same outcome.