Conventional US ground troops may for the first time be stationed in Syria “for some period of time” to combat Islamic State, according to a CNN report citing anonymous defense officials.
“It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time,” a defense official told CNN on Wednesday. It is the sole quote in the report, but CNN sources multiple US officials as clarifying that this is just a concept, not a formal proposal.
President Donald Trump’s first instructions to Defense Secretary James Mattis were to formulate a strategy against Islamic State, and a plan is due by the end of February.
US Special Operations forces have been gathering intelligence as well as training and assisting so-called rebel opposition groups and Turkish troops in Syria for years.
CNN also reports that Trump may be advised to increase or disregard altogether the US troop limit in Iraq, which is set at 5,262 not counting temporary assignments. There are 5,155 troops currently counted in that country.
There’s also talk in the Pentagon about further collaboration with Russia, while also providing arms for Kurdish groups in northern Syria. To assuage Turkey of its concerns over Kurdish fighters, US troops may be used as a counterweight, CNN reported.
Military.com reported on Tuesday that US Special Operations Command claimed the US-led coalition against the Islamic State had killed 60,000 militants in two years, an increase of 10,000 from December.