Tabnak – As the operation is going on to liberate Raqqa, the capital of self-declared ISIS Caliphate in Syria, Washington shows signs of a new strategy in the war-torn country, based on more involvement on the ground. In this vein, it was reported today that Pentagon has deployed hundreds of ground forces into Syria.
Several hundred Marines have deployed into Syria with artillery guns, as part of the ongoing preparation for the fight to push ISIS out of Raqqa, a Pentagon spokesman has confirmed. The Marines are pre-positioning howitzers to be ready to assist local Syrian forces, according to US officials.
In a more detailed report of the event, "NBC News” writes that a group from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived in Syria deployed with M777 Howitzers, capable of firing 155mm shells, to assist the coalition of militias collectively known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The coalition consists mostly of the Syrian Kurds, which has turned it into a point of contention between US and its NATO ally Turkey.
These are not the first conventional troops to deploy to Syria, nor is this the first time the US military has sent in ground-launched artillery. High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) have been used there in the past. However, comparing to the general approach Washington has so far applies in Syria, it is regarded as a new important development.
In an analysis of the move, "Al-Jazeera” writes that although the deployment is temporary, it could be an indication that the White House is leaning towards giving the Pentagon greater flexibility to make routine combat decisions in the fight against ISIS terrorists.
Military commanders frustrated by what they considered micromanagement under the previous US administration have argued for greater freedom to make daily decisions on how best to fight the enemy.
The significance of the move becomes clearer when we consider it in relation with some other US decisions regarding Syria. In this vein, it was reported that Washington is mulling the creation of a 1,000-strong Kuwait-based military force allegedly aimed at engaging ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Citing unnamed officials, Reuters said in a Wednesday report that the US administration was considering bolstering the country's Kuwait-based troops by around 1,000 to act as reserve in the battle against terrorism.
The officials noted that the decision on whether to send the troops to Kuwait is part of an ongoing evaluation of Washington’s strategy to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, where some 6,000 US troops are already deployed.
It should be noted that a major operation to retake Raqqa, codenamed Operation "Euphrates Anger," began Nov. 7 — two weeks after a campaign to clear ISIS from Iraq's Mosul — and is being supported by U.S. air strikes as well as 30,000 SDF forces.
Meanwhile, Pentagon leaders have sent a new plan to defeat ISIS to the White House late last month. It outlined a strategy that would likely increase the number of US troops in Syria in order to better advise and enable the US-backed Syrian fighters who will take on the battle for Raqqa.
The US military has mapped out a series of options for the Syria fight, including increased artillery support, more Apache helicopters and a more robust training campaign. In this respect, all the indicators show that Washington is conducting a major shift from its mostly indirect activism in Syria in the past to a more direct involvement. However, the extent to which this new strategy will be functional, is a matter that needs time to be revealed.