US to Send Troops to Syria

The US will send about 50 special operations troops into Syria to support Syrian rebels in the fight against ISIS, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday. The troops will have a train, advise, and assist mission, Earnest said, so while they may end up in a “combat situation … they are not in a combat role.” A senior defense official told reporters at the Pentagon the troops will not go out on joint operations with Syrian opposition forces, and that the plan “is not to have these special operators act as [joint terminal attack controllers] or call in airstrikes.” Still, the official said, the US will occasionally do unilateral raids into Syria. “This has been done and we will continue to do that,” said the official, speaking on background. Earnest said sending special operations troops in is “an intensification of a strategy that the President announced more than a year ago.” Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Wednesday said that while Army MSgt. Joshua Wheeler died in combat, and “American combat troops are in combat every day,” the overall Operation Inherent Resolve mission is not combat, but rather focused on building up local forces to fight ISIS. Earnest also addressed concerns from members of Congress that the Obama Administration does not have the legal justification it needs for OIR. “Congress in 2001 did give the executive branch authorization to take this action,” Earnest said, but the White House has written and the President has urged Congress to pass a new Authorization for Use of Military Force.