Special forces to go to Syria very soon: US
WASHINGTON – Agence France-Presse
AFP photoDozens of U.S. special operations forces will arrive in Syria “very soon,” as promised by U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, a senior U.S. official said Nov. 22.
The troops will have the task of organizing local forces battling the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in northern Syria, according to the special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, Brett McGurk.
“They will be going in very soon,” McGurk told CBS television’s “Face the Nation” program.
In late October, Obama authorized no more than 50 special operations forces to deploy to northern Syria in a non-combatant, advisory role to help coordinate local ground troops and anti-ISIL coalition efforts.
It marks the first official deployment of U.S. troops on the ground in Syria since an international coalition formed to counter the violent extremist group.
The U.S. troops will assist an Arab-Kurd coalition that includes the main Syrian Kurdish militia the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Arab groups and Syriac Christians.
These local forces “have been doing a very successful operation,” McGurk said. “This is focused on isolating the capital of ISIL in Raqqa.”
He said they have retaken about 1,100 square kilometers in the last two weeks and killed about 300 ISIL fighters. The U.S.-led coalition aims to “suffocate and strangle them in the core” of ISIL in Iraq and Syria through multiple coordinated offensives, McGurk said.
The coalition is also trying to cut off access for ISIL to the Syrian border in order to cut off the main access route between Raqqa and the Iraqi city of Mosul, McGurk said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travelled to the Gulf on Nov. 23 to stress the urgent need to unite a region riven by conflict against the threat from ISIL.
Kerry believes his ambitious plan to bring Syria’s other warring parties to the negotiating table is the key to isolating and ultimately defeating the extremists.
Kerry told reporters in Abu Dhabi that he was in the region to encourage his Emirati and Saudi allies in their efforts to convince Syria’s rebel factions to agree to a cease-fire with President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
“That’s why I’m here,” he told reporters, repeating his hope that a cease-fire between the opposition and the government could be struck “in a few weeks.”
“We’re working very hard to accelerate the efforts out of Vienna, to give that diplomatic process life,” he said.
“You can be confident that the diplomatic front is in high gear, with a very real plan on the table to be implemented.”
Kerry held meetings with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan.
Last month, 17 nations plus the United Nations, Arab League and European Union met in Vienna to set a framework for a cease-fire and peace talks to halt Syria’s civil war.