More US troops possible in Syria: Pentagon chief

More US troops possible in Syria: Pentagon chief

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
More US troops possible in Syria: Pentagon chief

AFP photo

More US troops could “absolutely” be deployed to Syria if Washington identifies more “capable local forces” as partners in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in an interview aired on Nov. 8.

Carter’s comments to ABC News came about a week after the White House announced the deployment of “fewer than 50” special operations personnel in the north of the war-ravaged nation, in a bid to strengthen forces battling ISIL fighters.

“In order to have victory stick, you have to have local forces involved who can keep the peace after you’ve helped them win the peace,” Carter said in an interview taped aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the South China Sea.

“Now those are hard to find in Iraq and Syria,” he told the “This Week” news program.

“If we find additional groups that are willing to fight ISIL and are capable and motivated, we’ll do more. The president has indicated a willingness to do more, I certainly am prepared to recommend he do more, but you need to have capable local forces, that’s the key to sustainable victory.” 

When asked if that could mean more American forces on the ground, Carter replied: “Absolutely.”

The U.S.-led air campaign against ISIL militants in Syria, which ground to a near halt in late October, has intensified in recent days. Coalition forces carried out 56 strikes against ISIL in Syria in the eight days from Oct. 30 to Nov. 6 after going the previous eight days with only three strikes, according to U.S. military figures.

Meanwhile, Russia’s air force flew 137 sorties and hit 448 targets in Syria in the last three days, Russian news agencies quoted the Defence Ministry as saying on Nov. 9, according to Reuters. 

It said that targets were at provinces of Aleppo, Damascus, Idlib, Latakia, Raqqa, Hama and Homs.  

A monitoring group in Syria said apparent Russian air strikes killed at least 11 civilians on Nov. 8 in two towns in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, according to Agence France-Presse.

Nine people, including a child, were killed in strikes on areas in the town of Maaret al-Numan, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Another two women were killed in Saraqib in the same province, the Britain-based monitor said.

It said both sets of raids were believed to have been carried out by Russian planes participating in an aerial campaign Moscow launched in Syria on September 30.

On the same day the French army bombed an oil supply center held by ISIL in eastern Syria, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced on Nov. 9.

“We intervened in Syria... yesterday evening with a strike on an oil supply center near Deir Ezzor on the border between Iraq and Syria,” Le Drian told journalists on the sidelines of a forum on African peace and security in Dakar, Senegal.