WASHINGTON, D.C. — Up to 250 additional U.S. personnel are being deployed to Syria to support local forces on the ground and build on successes of U.S. forces already deployed there in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Pentagon’s press secretary said April 25.
The additional personnel include special operations forces and medical and logistics personnel, Peter Cook told reporters at the Pentagon. The forces are to build on the gains of 50 previously deployed special operators in Syria, he said.
During a speech in Germany on the same day, President Barack Obama announced the deployment of the additional forces. He said the expertise of the special operations forces already on the ground in Syria has been critical as local forces drive ISIL out of key areas.
The 50 special operators have improved the picture of the battlefield and made important connections with local, capable forces, Cook said, and they have enhanced the military’s targeting efforts in Syria.
The extra personnel will be establishing connections with capable forces on the ground, working on getting a better picture of the battlespace, and improving the intelligence and targeting assessment, Cook said.
“They will help our partners on the ground capitalize on their progress and increase the pressure on ISIL at this critical time,” Cook said, adding Defense Secretary Ash Carter believes this deployment will make a “tangible” difference in the campaign to defeat ISIL.
The intent is not to have the forces on the front lines or engaged in direct combat, Cook said. Rather, he explained, they will be enabling and supporting local forces who have made gains against ISIL, and meeting with other capable forces to build on the momentum.
The spokesman added the U.S. forces will be in harm’s way and will be able to defend themselves if they come under fire.