WASHINGTON – As many as 1,000 more U.S. forces could deploy to Syria to help local forces retake Raqqa, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s de facto capital in Syria, according to a recent report.
The U.S. military has drawn up early plans that would deploy up to 1,000 more troops to northern Syria in the coming weeks, U.S. defense officials recently told the Washington Post.
U.S. Central Command to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would have to approve the program before it heads to President Donald Trump for approval.
The increase of troops would be three-fold. The Obama administration had authorized 503 U.S. forces to be deployed full-time to Syria.
The new troops would focus on advising Kurdish and Arab fighters in northern Syria fighting ISIS, training them in skills like bomb disposal and coordinating air support.
The troop increase comes as the Trump administration is looking into how to accelerate the fight against ISIS.
The President tasked the Pentagon with coming up with a plan within 30 days, and Mattis submitted a “broad outline” at the end of February, and Centcom Commander Gen. Joe Votel has been “filling in more details,” according to the Post.
That plan is due by the end of the month to Mattis, who is likely to sign off on them, a defense official told the Post.
However, much of the plan will depend on how many troops U.S. partners in the region may send.
Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman said Thursday before a meeting at the Pentagon with Mattis that he would consider sending troops.
“We are ready to do anything that will eradicate terrorism, anything without limits,” he responded to a reporter’s question.
The potential troop increase also comes as the Pentagon is deliberating whether to scrap the distinction between troops who deploy on a full-time basis and short-term.
Those on a full-time deployment count as part of what is called a “Force Management Level.” According to the FML, there are 503 troops in Syria and more than 5,000 in Iraq.
In Syria, at least several hundreds more have deployed there on a short-term basis, not counted as part of the 503 – including about 250 Army Rangers and 200 Marines.
The Marines arrived recently to provide artillery support as the local Syrian forces fight to retake Raqqa.
The Rangers are in a northern Syrian town called Manbij, where they are making sure fighting does not break out between various parties that may seek to claim the area, which was freed from ISIS last August.