A spokesperson for the US-led international coalition against Islamic State said on March 9 that the US has deployed hundreds of additional troops to Syria.
US Air Force Colonel John Dorrian said the additional forces – a US Marines artillery unit and US Army Rangers – would be working with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian Arab Coalition and would not have a frontline role, Reuters reported.
“We are talking about an additional 400 or so forces in total, and they will be there for a temporary period,” Dorrian said, adding that they arrived in Syria in “the last few days.”
The US had previously deployed around 500 troops in Syria.
Reports of the deployment surfaced on March 8 in the Washington Post which cited unnamed US officials. CNN’s Barbara Starr later confirmed the reports, but also cited unnamed officials.
Writing in the Post, Tom Gibbons-Neff and Dan Lamothe said the troops were part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and included parts of an artillery battery that can fire M777 Howitzers. They said the Marines were deployed to deliver fire support for the US-backed local forces preparing an assault on Raqqa and estimated that the howitzers need to be based within 20 to 30 miles of their target.
The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit left San Diego on US Navy ships in October 2016.
According to ABC the Marines now in Syria are part of a 2,200-strong force aboard the amphibious vessels the USS Makin Island, USS Comstock and USS Somerset.
Commenting on the campaign to take Raqqa from IS, SDF spokesperson Talal Silo said: “We expect that within a few weeks there will be a siege of the city,” Reuters reported.
Earlier, Col. Dorrian said that the Marine artillery would help “expedite the defeat of ISIS in Raqqa.”
On March 6, the SDF said it had cut the road between Raqqa and Deir Ezzor north of the Euphrates River.
‘Reassure and deter’ mission
CNN’s Starr claimed that the US has also deployed around 100 Army Rangers in and around Manbij to deter hostilities between the various factions on the ground.
Photographs and video of US troops apparently patrolling near Manbij in Stryker armoured vehicles and Humvees have been posted online in recent days.
More US troops in Kuwait?
The Associated Press cited unnamed US officials as saying that the US is also sending hundreds of troops to Kuwait in case they are required to join the fight against IS. The Kuwait deployment would be fewer than 1,000, the official said.