American forces to arrive in Syria ‘very soon’

November 22, 2015  

Dozens of American special operations forces will arrive in Syria “very soon,” as promised by President Barack Obama’s administration, a senior official said Sunday.

The troops will have the task of organizing local forces battling the self-proclaimed Islamic State in northern Syria, according to special envoy Brett McGurk.

“They will be going in very soon,” McGurk told CBS television’s “Face the Nation” program.

In late October, Obama authorized no more than 50 special operations forces to deploy to northern Syria in a non-combatant, advisory role to help coordinate local ground troops and anti-ISIS coalition efforts.

It marks the first official deployment of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria since an international coalition formed to counter the violent extremist group.

The U.S. troops will assist an Arab-Kurd coalition that includes the main Syrian Kurdish militia the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Arab groups and Syrian Christians.

These local forces “have been doing a very successful operation,” McGurk said.

“This is focused on isolating the capital of ISIL in Raqqa,” he added, using another acronym for ISIS.

He said they have retaken about 1,100 square kilometers (435 square miles) in the last two weeks and killed about 300 ISIS fighters.

The American-led coalition aims to “suffocate and strangle them in the core” of ISIS in Iraq and Syria through multiple coordinated offensives, McGurk said.

The coalition is also trying to cut off access for ISIS to the Syrian border in order to cut off the main access route between Raqqa and the Iraqi city of Mosul, McGurk explained.

Obama’s decision to authorize special forces was branded as “too little, too late” by some of his critics in Washington.

Syria, meanwhile, blasted the United States’ decision to send troops into Syria as an “act of aggression”.

“When America sends ground forces into Syrian territories without an agreement with the Syrian government it becomes an intervention and aggression,” said Syrian MP Sharif Shehadeh. “Will America allow Russian ground forces to go into America without an agreement? I think the answer is no.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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