US to send special troops to Syria after peace talks

With Moscow raising the stakes by resorting to aerial bombing to flush out radical Islamist militants in Syria, the US has decided to send special troops to Syria after it held peace talks with Russia on the issue.

Disclosing Russian troops already stationed in Syria to combat the Islamic State (IS), the situation in Syria hasn’t shown any sign of improvement. Disclosing its plans on October 30 to station the first American boots on the ground in Syria in the war against Islamic State fighters, the US said dozens of special forces troops would be sent as advisers to groups fighting against the jihadists.

Announcing the ground force shortly before 17 countries, the European Union and the United Nations called for a nationwide truce in Syria’s civil war at talks in Vienna, which was also attended by Iran for the first time since the crisis started in 2011. Iran has been an ally of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. US officials said the small special forces contingent in Syria would work with local “moderate rebel” groups to fight against Islamic State and that it should not be considered a combat mission. 

The main aim of the special troops would be to advise, train and assist the local groups that are already fighting the IS.  “I think if we were envisioning a combat operation, we probably would be contemplating more than 50 troops on the ground,” said Mr Earnest. This decision seems to be a policy shift in the Obama administration, which had earlier targeted the IS through only air strikes.

Russia’s decision to send troops to Syria last month had led to concerns being raised by the US about Russian troops deployed to support the Assad regime. “The decision to deploy special forces would make cooperation between U.S. and Russian armed forces even more important,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Iran’s involvement in the talks signals a growing understanding between Tehran and the West. The historic nuclear deal that took place between Iran and the P5+1 countries had opponents, the US and Russia, on the same side to negotiate a deal with Iran. While there are plenty of differences between the US and Iran, the role of the latter would be crucial in contributing to restoring order in Syria and the region.

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