President Barack Obama has authorized a contingent of less than 50 commandos to deploy into northern Syria and work with moderate opposition forces who are fighting the militants.
While the White House has consistently said it would not put U.S. boots on the ground, spokesman Josh Earnest insisted that they will be there in a “train, advise and assist mission” — and not in a combat role.
“It will not be their responsibility to lead the charge up the hill,” he said.
But he acknowledged they will be in a perilous situation: “There is no denying the amount of risk they are taking on here.”
Earnest called the additional forces an “expansion” but not a “change” in U.S. strategy against ISIS. He was unable to detail what the special operators will do, citing security concerns.
He also didn’t deny the suggestion that the increase in forces would not turn the situation around in Syria, where President Bashar Assad remains in power.
Obama “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.
A senior U.S. official earlier told media reporters that the special operations forces will work alongside groups with a “proven track record” of fighting ISIS.
Donald Trump slams Obama over ground Troops in Syria
Donald Trump on Saturday knocked President Barack Obama’s decision to deploy fewer than 50 Special Operations forces on the ground in Syria, suggesting the strategy is a half-measure.
“I think we have a president who just doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Trump told reporters.
“You either do it or you don’t do it. Fifty people. He puts 50 people.”
Trump did not say whether he would deploy more troops to Syria as president, but simply said, “You either do it or you don’t do it.”
The remarks are the first time Trump has reacted to Obama’s decision to deploy fewer than 50 Special Operations forces to Syria, which the White House announced Friday. The announcement came two years after Obama addressed the American public and said emphatically:
“I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.”
Trump, along with other 2016 GOP contenders, has been highly critical of Obama’s handling of the war against ISIS.
Trump has said that he would deploy American troops back to Iraq to combat ISIS but has argued against deepening U.S. involvement in Syria.
Instead, Trump has said that he would be in favor of allowing Russian President Vladimir Putin to continue his bombing campaign in the country, which has been met with objection by Washington, which believes Putin is trying to bolster the Syrian regime rather than attacking ISIS.