At least 200 U.S. special operations troops are in Syria advising the Syrian Democratic Forces in their effort to retake the city of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State group.

In recent days, as the U.S.-supported Kurdish and Arab fighters begin to move closer to Raqqa, there have been persistent questions about how close American troops are getting to the front lines.

When the mission was initially announced last October, the White House ruled out a combat role and made it clear that the commandos’ job was not “to lead the charge to take a hill but rather to offer advice and assistance to those local forces.” But in recent days photos have shown them in locations that appear to be closer to the fight.

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