According the White House, President Barack Obama will send a force of less than 50 U.S. special operations forces into Syria as part of a coordinated strategy against the Islamic State (a.k.a. IS, ISIL, Daesh). The strategy was announced on October 30 in which American military advisors will dropped into Syria in a "train, advise and assist mission" with opposition forces – but not in a combat role. "It will not be their responsibility to lead the charge up the hill," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. However, the special forces will be in harm’s way: Earnest added, "There is no denying the amount of risk they are taking on here." He could not specify otherwise the work special forces will be doing.
Earnest said on October 30 that Obama does not need to ask for Congressional authorization for the incursion, arguing that authority was given by Congress in 2001 during the George W. Bush administration to combat terrorism. Even so, Obama has been demanding that Congress give him authorization to formally attack the Islamic State, despite skepticism among legislators.
Earnest denied that the addition of special operators is an “expansion” of the American role, rather than a “change” in its strategy to defeat ISIS. Obama, said Earnest, "has been quite clear that there is no military solution to the problems that are plaguing Iraq and Syria — it's a diplomatic one." Earnest said. All the same, already one U.S. soldier has died in Obama’s war in Syria. Some sources suggest that U.S. special forces may align with Kurdish and other forces within the "Syrian Democratic Forces."
In Vienna, Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, alongside a U.N. representative, held a press conference in which they detailed their new found joint diplomatic strategy. Kerry said "Four-and-a-half years of war, we all believe, has been far too long." Kerry said rival countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia have pledged to support the confirmation of independent and secular Syria, while striving to defeat the Islamic State. This comes approximately one month after Russian forces entered the fray. There are also rumors that Cuban troops are also fighting in Syria in armored units.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, Republican chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said that Obama’s change in plans makes manifest the failure of the president’s policies with regard to IS. "I'm concerned that the administration is trying to put in place limited measures — too late — that are not going to make a difference," he told NBC News. "I don't see a strategy towards accomplishing a goal, I see an effort to run out the clock without disaster."
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said this week in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that raids such as the one that resulted in the death of the U.S. special forces operator can be expected, including "direct action on the ground" in Iraq and Syria. Carter referred to the raid as "combat," where "things are complicated."
There are currently some 3,300 troops U.S. troops in Iraq, who providing training and advice to Iraqi forces and to protect American facilities.
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