Defense Department could propose ground forces in Syria

Defense Department could propose sending ground combat forces into northern Syria as part of fight against ISIS.

Ben Ariel,

ISIS terrorist in Syria
ISIS terrorist in Syria

The Defense Department could propose that the United States send conventional ground combat forces into northern Syria for the first time in order to speed up the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), CNN reported on Wednesday.

"It's possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time," one defense official told the network.

The official emphasized, however, that any decision is ultimately up to President Donald Trump, who has ordered his Defense Secretary to come up with a proposal to combat ISIS before the end of the month.

The move would significantly alter U.S. military operations in Syria if approved and could put troops on the ground within weeks.

Until now, only small teams made up largely of Special Operations forces have operated in Syria, providing training and assistance to anti-ISIS opposition groups on the ground.

Conventional units operate in larger numbers and would require a more significant footprint of security protection both on the ground and in the air.

The exact mission of ground troops is not yet clear, but one goal of their presence would be to help reassure Turkey that Kurdish forces are not posing a threat to its interests, according to CNN. It is possible some troops would deploy first to Kuwait and then move into Syria, the network said.

The Obama administration rejected the idea of ground combat troops because of the inherent risks involved. If the idea is approved, it would signal a fundamental change in the Trump administration's willingness to accept such risk, noted CNN.

The official who spoke to the network stressed that sending troops to Syria is just one of several ideas that may be presented to the President.

Discussions are also underway on fundamentally changing how troops are deployed to Iraq.

Right now, no more than 5,262 troops are allowed in Iraq, with 5,155 there currently. Trump may be asked to do away with all the limits so complete units can be sent and temporary deployments will also be counted, according to the report.

Commanders say this will give them more flexibility in operations, but it also will increase the number of troops there, something the Iraqi government would have to agree to.