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US Orders Special Operations Forces to Syria

by Carla Babb October 30, 2015

A small team of American ground troops will deploy to northern Syria to help assist opposition groups in the fight against Islamic State militants.

The White House said Friday the president has authorized fewer than 50 U.S. special operations forces to coordinate Syrian local fighter movements with the U.S.-led coalition efforts. The deployment marks the first U.S. ground forces sent to Syria for more than a raid or a specific mission.

The U.S. troops in deployed to Syria will provide "some training, some advice and some assistance" to those fighting IS-extremists, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

"This is an intensification of a strategy that the president announced more than a year ago," Earnest said, adding that the "core" of the U.S. strategy in Iraq and Syria remains "building the capacity of local forces on the ground."

​​Reporters at the White House were told that President Obama additionally approved consultations with Iraqi leaders to establish a special-operations task force to strengthen efforts to weaken and defeat IS leaders and networks.

More warplanes to Turkey

The U.S. also will deploy additional A-10 and F-15 warplanes to NATO's Incirlik Airbase in Turkey, according to a senior administration official.

"We are looking at some increases to the capabilities at Incirlik," General Philip Breedlove, the top military officer at NATO and the commander of US European Command, told reporters at the Pentagon Friday ahead of the White House announcement.

While details are still being discussed, the additions at Incirlik will "provide some increased support" to the anti-IS mission, according to Breedlove. He added the capabilities will also be used to help Turkey "address concerns about their air space."

Members of the extremist group have become infamous for their brutal tactics, including mass beheadings, aimed at indiscriminate targets including other Muslims who do not share their beliefs. The group's leaders have said their aim is to establish an Islamic 'caliphate,' evidently in Syria, and to work to maximize the territory they control in the Middle East.

​​'Good progress'

The White House said the U.S. has made 'good progress' in Iraq and Syria when it has worked closely with effective partners on the ground, and now has enhanced its ability to partner with those forces.

As the United States increases its military effort against Islamic State, officials stressed that increased diplomatic efforts also are underway to reach a political solution in Syria - including the current multinational talks in Vienna, where Secretary of State John Kerry has been meeting with diplomats from Iran and Russia, the two main allies of embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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