Barack Obama to send more soldiers to fight Islamic State in Syria
Barack Obama at the opening evening of a Hanover trade fair. Photograph: Alexander Koerner/Getty Images
Barack Obama is expected to announce a plan to send another 250 US soldiers to Syria to help local forces fight Islamic State militants, it has been reported.Officials said the president would outline the plan, which would take the American deployment to 300 personnel, in a speech in Hanover, Germany on Monday. He will later have talks with German chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders.
Obama was reportedly convinced by military advisers that increasing the US strength in the region would help exploit rec
The Wall Street Journal reported that the additional personnel would be asked to convince more Sunni Arabs to join in the fight against Islamic State.
Thus far, the US forces have concentrated on working with Kurdish forces but officials reportedly believe they will need to look beyond those forces in order to make gains around the Islamic State stronghold Raqqa.
US authorities have also been working to reassure their Turkish counterparts that their focus is on dealing with Arab elements, the WSJ said, rather than on getting more Kurds involved in the fighting.
Obama’s expected announcement would draw to a close his week-long foreign trip and the focus on defeating Islamic State was on the agenda for his talks with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Great Britain and Germany.
The WSJ quoted a US official who said: “He [Obama] intends to put in more ... forces to the tune of 250 in Syria,” but the official was unable to break down how many of those would be special operations forces and how many might be medical or intelligence support personnel.
A second Obama administration official told the WSJ: “The president has authorised a series of steps to increase support for our partners in the region, including Iraqi security forces as well as local Syrian forces who are taking the fight to [Isis].”
Obama pledged to wind down wars in the Middle East when he was first elected in 2008. But in the latter part of his presidency, he has found it necessary to keep or add troops to help with conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
In Iraq, Isis has been pulling back since December when it lost Ramadi, the capital of the western province of Anbar. In Syria, the jihadist fighters have been pushed from the strategic city of Palmyra by Russian-backed Syrian government forces.
The Pentagon also announced last week that about 200 more troops would be deployed to Iraq, mainly to advise Iraqi troops fighting Islamic State.
ent victories over Isis.
The US sent 50 special forces troops to Syria last year and, according to the Wall Street Journal, a contingent of the new force would also be special forces. It was unclear, however, how large that contingent would be and how many of the personnel might be involved in support activities, such as medical and intelligence, Reuters and the Associated Press (AP) reported.
The move comes a day after Obama ruled out sending ground troops to Syria. He told the BBC: “It would be a mistake for the United States, or Great Britain … to send in ground troops and overthrow the Assad regime.”
The president said he did not believe that Islamic State could be defeated in his remaining time in office, saying that he would seek instead to “slowly shrink the environment in which they operate”.
“In order for us to solve the long-term problems in Syria, a military solution alone – and certainly us deploying ground troops – is not going to bring that about,” Obama said.
He has also said in the past that the US plan to defeat Islamic State would not “involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil”.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN