As the Trump administration cedes greater decision-making authority back to battlefield commanders in Syria and Iraq, more U.S. troops are likely to be on the ground in Syria for the coming Raqqa offensive.
Citing defense officials familiar with the matter, the Washington Post reported that Secretary of Defense James Mattis will be approving the deployment of up to 1,000 more ground troops to help lead the coming fight against the Islamic State’s de facto capital of Raqqa, located in Syria by the end of this month.
The decision to send more troops was conceived in the Pentagon, and forwarded to the White House after the decision was made. National Security Advisor Lieutenant H.R. McMaster did not hold any meetings of the National Security Council to offer guidance or ask questions about the deployment; a sign that the Trump White House is delegating such authorities to combatant commanders, a contrast to the intensive control the Obama administration leveraged over tactical decisions on the ground, and particularly with troop numbers.
Speculation has surrounded how the President intends to enact his policy to defeat the Islamic State, which was a central theme in his election campaign and his stated primary foreign policy objective. During the campaign, Trump demurred at requests to discuss his strategy, saying it would give the enemy advance notice.
Given the careful, and public, use of the 75th Ranger Regiment near the town of Manbij in recent weeks as a means to stymie infighting between the myriad armed opposition groups on the ground, it’s clear the U.S. still intends to use local armed groups to bear the brunt of the fighting, which follows Obama era policy. But the lifting of a troop cap could potentially expedite the campaign to dislodge ISIS from its territorial strongholds.
Coinciding with the Pentagon’s plan to send more troops, political support is siding in support of the deployments as well. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ar.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Intelligence Committees, recently told CNN’s Jake Tapper that troop caps were a product of the Obama era and that “we ought to look at our mission and the strategy necessary to accomplish that mission.”
Image courtesy of the BBC