WASHINGTON, Mar 16: The United States is set to deploy about 1,000 additional US troops to northern Syria, according to a Pentagon official, following reports that the Trump administration is planning to send thousands of soldiers to the Arab country.
The official told foreign newsman on Wednesday that President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are yet to approve the provisional plans drawn up by the Pentagon.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “That’s one of the proposals that’s on the table for discussion.”
Washington has currently between 800 and 900 Special Operations troops in Syria, according to foreign media. However, their activities have been limited to what the Pentagon describes as training and assisting Kurdish forces in their battle against Daesh and other terrorist groups.
General Joseph L. Votel, the top US commander for the Middle East, said last month that more American troops might be needed in Syria to step up the war against the Daesh terrorist group in the country.
According to reports, the Pentagon might persuade President Trump to authorize sending thousands of combat troops to Syria.
“It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time,” CNN reported last month, citing a US defense official.
The decision is ultimately up to Trump, who has ordered Mattis to put together a viable proposal to resolve the ongoing crisis in the Arab country, the official added.
During the presidential campaign, Trump had openly supported deploying a large contingent of US troops to Syria.
“We really have no choice, we have to knock out ISIS (Daesh),” Trump had said. “I would listen to the generals, but I’m hearing numbers of 20,000-30,000.”
When authorizing the limited deployments, then-US President Barack Obama had stressed that ground troops were not an option.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has called the US troops in Syria invaders, because under international law foreign governments can’t deploy troops to sovereign countries.
Assad told Chinese TV station Phoenix last week that “any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation … are invaders.”
Since March 2011, the United States and its regional allies, in particular Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, have been conducting a proxy war against Syria. The years-long conflict has left more than 470,000 Syrians dead and half of the country’s population of about 23 million displaced within or beyond the Arab country’s borders.