President Obama: U.S. Expanding Military Force in Syria to Fight ISISApril 25, 201601:59
President Barack Obama said the U.S. will send an additional 250 military personnel to Syria, significantly expanding the American presence there to fight ISIS.
Obama made the announcement in a speech in Germany. He said the additional troops — including some special forces as well as medical and logistical specialists — were necessary in order to "keep up this momentum" against ISIS. News of the deployment was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
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The additional personnel will bolster the contingent of around 50 commandos authorized for operations in Syria.
The Pentagon on Monday said that while military personnel will be in harm's way they will not be engaged in direct combat. The Pentagon also pushed back against the idea that the action is mission creep and said they are building on what's working.
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"Obviously any special forces troops that we deploy into Iraq or Syria are going to be combat-equipped troops. They may be in circumstances where they find themselves in harm’s way because these are dangerous places. The question is, what is the mission that they’re being given? And the mission that they’re being given is not to go into Syria and to engage the enemy, to engage ISIL," Ben Rhodes, deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications told reporters during a press briefing on Monday. "So they’re not being sent there on a combat mission; they’re being sent there on a mission to, again, be advising, assisting and supporting the forces that are fighting against ISIL on the ground."
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In October, the administration announced that it would send a small number of U.S. special operations forces into Syria, a move that signaled a subtle shift in strategy.
Monday's expected announcement comes after Obama's top military advisers persuaded the president that additional personnel would help the Pentagon extend recent gains against ISIS, according to The Wall Street Journal.
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It also mirrors a similar move in Iraq for the fight against ISIS.
Last week Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the U.S. will send 217 more troops — including special operations forces — to Iraq.
"The Iraqis are still in the lead. That doesn't change," Carter told Nightly News anchor Lester Holt. "Americans are at risk today every single day here. As secretary of defense, I take that more seriously than anything else.