The U.S. ground presence in Syria is likely to increase by 1,000 troops in the next month, as the Pentagon ramps up U.S. military presence in the country ahead of a planned offensive on the ISIS capital in Raqqa, the Washington Post reports.
The plan, which is expected to be approved by Defense Secretary James Mattis by the end of the month, calls for the troops to go to Syria to serve in support roles in the northern part of the country. They’d be called on to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurds and Arabs fighting ISIS, with bomb disposal and air-defense coordination, among other things.
These thousand or so conventional troops would join nearly 1,000 members of Special Operations forces already on the ground in the country. While none of these soldiers are in Syria to fight, the Post’s reporting suggests that that could soon change as military leaders consider plans to “embed U.S. forces alongside Syrian Kurdish and Arab forces, potentially pushing U.S. soldiers and Marines into a direct combat role.”
The plan to send the ground troops to Syria will coincide with the lifting of an Obama-era troop cap for the country. Currently, only 503 troops are allowed to be deployed in the country, with temporary deployments not counting against that cap. The White House is expected to get rid of the cap, the Post says, along with one that limits the number of troops in Iraq to around 5,000.