US President Barack Obama will announce plans to dramatically increase American troop presence in Syria by deploying additional 250 personnel, bringing the total to 300 people, media reports quoted US officials as saying.
The move, which is said to be announced Monday, will once again contradict Obama’s 2013 promise of not putting any“American boots on the ground in Syria.”
“[Obama] intends to put in more … forces to the tune of 250 in Syria,” a US official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
It is not yet clear how many of those troops will be added to special operations, medical or intelligence support. The troops will work with Syrian opposition forces to fight Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL).
“The president has authorized a series of steps to increase support for our partners in the region, including Iraqi security forces, as well as local Syrian forces who are taking the fight to ISIL,” another official in Obama’s administration said.
AFP confirmed the information. Obama will “announce that he has authorized up to 250 additional forces deploying to Syria,” the news agency quoted the source as saying.
Obama is scheduled to reveal more details in Hannover, Germany, on Monday at 11:25 a.m. local time. The US president is currently in Germany discussing various foreign policy issues, including Syria, Ukraine, Libya and the controversial Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal.
Syria was one of the central topics of discussion between Obama and Merkel on Sunday. After the meeting, Obama said he was “deeply concerned” about a recent increase in violence.
The two will meet with other major European leaders after Obama’s speech on Monday, including with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
The first time Obama broke his 2013 promise of no “American boots on the ground in Syria” was when he sent 50 US special operations forces to Syria last year, claiming the move as a “counter terrorism” measure and not a step closer to a ground invasion.
Obama won the presidency first time around in 2008 by pledging to bring peace to the Middle East. However, in recent years, decisions were made to keep adding US troops in the region to help control numerous conflicts.
Obama’s decision to boost the number of American troops on the ground in Syria brings up issues concerning the previous failures of the US train and equip program that dealt with unreliable opposition fighters.
The Pentagon gave up on the training part of the project in October, after senior Obama administration officials admitted that the US had only trained a handful of fighters, despite the program’s $500 million budget.
— RT (@RT_com) November 1, 2015
Moreover, it was revealed in September that one group of trainees had surrendered one quarter of their US-supplied weapons, ammunition, and vehicles in exchange for safe passage through territory held by another rebel group affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
This boost to American ground force also raises legal concerns for Obama. An expansion of the US role highlights that America is in war against IS, which under the Constitution requires congressional authorization, which Obama has never received.
In addition to more troops in Syria, the Pentagon announced last week that 217 additional military personnel and Apache helicopters will be sent to Iraq, largely in an advisory capacity, on how to fight Islamic State. The additional troops will bring US troop levels in Iraq to 4,087.
The US-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against IS in Iraq and Syria since mid-2014. However, the US involvement in Syria began without the approval of the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.