Bahrain – Drawing the U.S. deeper into the Syria conflict, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Saturday he is sending 200 more troops to accelerate the push on the Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa.
The 200, to include special operations troops, are in addition to 300 already authorized for the effort to recruit, organize, train and advise local Syrian Arab and Kurdish forces to fight IS. Carter said the expanded U.S. involvement was approved by President Barack Obama last week.
On his final tour of the Mideast as Pentagon chief, Carter cast the new troop commitment as evidence that the U.S. backs its anti-IS words with military muscle.
In unusually pointed terms, Carter suggested that some Mideast partner nations are disingenuous in their criticisms of U.S. policy.
“These uniquely skilled operators will join the 300 U.S. special operations forces already in Syria, to continue organizing, training, equipping, and other wise enabling capable, motivated, local forces to take the fight to ISIL,” Carter said.
The coalition of Syrian Arab and Kurdish fighters that has been working with U.S. trainers and advisers said Saturday it will expand operations against the Islamic State group in northern Syria.
The military push is complicated by the predominance of local Kurdish fighters, who are the most effective U.S. partner against IS in Syria but are viewed by Turkey – a key U.S. ally – as a terrorist threat.