UNITED States President, Barack Obama, will announce later on Monday plans to send up to 250 additional US special forces troops to Syria to support local Syrian forces fighting against Islamic State, a White House adviser said.
The deployment will increase US forces in Syria to about 300. Its goal is to accelerate recent gains against Islamic State and appears to reflect growing confidence in the ability of U.S.-backed forces inside Syria and Iraq to claw back territory from the hardline Sunni Islamist group.
“We’ve seen across parts of northern and eastern Syria progress as ISIL has been pushed out of some strongholds,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters in the northern German city of Hanover, the last stop on Obama’s six-day foreign tour.
“We want to accelerate that progress and we believe the commitment of additional U.S. special forces can play a critical role.”
Obama will explain his decision in a speech at 11:25 a.m. in Hanover, where he discussed the Syria crisis with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday. Obama and Merkel are due to hold talks with the leaders of Britain, France and Italy in the afternoon.
Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, controls the cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria and is proving a potent threat abroad, claiming responsibility for major attacks in Paris in November and Brussels in March.
Rhodes emphasized that the U.S. troops would not themselves be directly involved in combat, but would act as support for Syrian forces on the ground.
“The mission that they are being given is not to go into Syria and engage the enemy, to engage ISIL,” he said. “They are not being sent there on a combat mission. They’re being sent there on a mission to be advising and assisting and supporting the forces that are fighting ISIL on the ground.”