UPDATE — 3/10, 9:59 a.m. EST: Testifying in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday, CENTCOM commander, Gen. Joseph Votel, said a more permanent U.S. troop presence will be needed to completely defeat ISIS in Syria.
“I think as we move towards the latter part of these operations into more of the stability and other aspects of the operations, we will see more conventional forces requirements,” he said.
Approximately 400 American military personnel have been deployed in the country over the past week, a majority of whom are Marines. Votel also said more troops are needed in Afghanistan to fend off the Taliban.
In a signal the White House is preparing to expand the American military presence in Syria to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), the Pentagon has sent a small contingent of U.S. Marines to the war-torn country.
The battalion-sized force is believed to have been sent to set up a base area and position field artillery batteries for the expected assault against the de-facto ISIS capital of Raqqa.
The unit’s deployment follows a recent buildup of U.S. troops in Manbij to the northwest of Raqqa; troops in Manbij were sent late last week to halt fighting between Syrian Democratic Forces and anti-Assad rebels backed by Turkey.
The small detachment sent to Raqqa coincides with another deployment of troops to Kuwait. Numbering below 1,000, it is speculated the buildup constitutes part of a rapid deployment force for the next American step to defeat ISIS.
The additional troops sent over the weekend bring the total number of U.S. personnel in Syria and Iraq to approximately 6,000.
A shift from the limited nature of Obama administration policy against ISIS, President Trump ordered Defense Secretary James Mattis to develop a strategy to defeat the Islamic State in February.
It is believed the recommendations will mirror strategy in neighboring Iraq including deployment of more troops, artillery, attack helicopters and aircraft, training programs for indigenous forces and lethal aid packages for armed groups allied with the U.S.
ISIS lost a full quarter of its territory in 2016 and currently finds itself under assault on all fronts. ISIS control in Mosul, Iraq, is receding and it has been reported ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has left the city.
Additionally, in Syria, Syrian troops backed by Russian airstrikes re-took the ancient citadel of Palmyra last week.
[AP] [RT America] [The Telegraph] [Photo courtesy AP via Sputnik News]