US on Brink of Sending Combat Troops to Fight ISIL in Syria; Russia Alarmed
The Pentagon has neither confirmed nor denied reports President Donald Trump has approved plans to send thousands of regular U.S. Army soldiers to Syria to do battle alongside rebel allies fighting to destroy the terrorist group ISIL now close to total collapse after heavy battlefield defeats.
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U.S. media said the deployment might occur as early as March. They also said the Pentagon is crafting plans that will send an unspecified number of regular U.S. Army combat troops and their supporting personnel into Syria to bump-up the force of 500 combat advisers coordinating efforts to destroy ISIL.
They report Trump has directed the Pentagon to accelerate plans for defeating ISIL. Trump was also reported to have expressed a willingness to expand the United States' military presence in Syria.
Some sources claim the army is considering deploying up to 30,000 men in Syria to attain Trump's campaign promise of speeding-up the prosecution of the fight against ISIL, and to protect safe zones for the 11 million Syrian refugees who have fled the fighting.
Other political observers said such a massive commitment of U.S. ground troops not seen since the surge in U.S. ground troops committed to the Iraq War by former U.S. president George Bush in 2007 will be deeply unpopular with the war-weary American public.
The 2007 surge saw the deployment of over 20,000 American infantry and was a militarily successful gamble that severely weakened the Sunni-led insurgency in Iraq.
It is not clear if the 30,000 figure refers to the combined total of combat troops and support troops. If it does, this means fewer than 10,000 of these men will be combat infantry. The rest will be support personnel. If it doesn't, and refers only to combat troops, it means over 100,000 men will be shipped to Syria.
There are currently some 500 U.S. troops deployed to Syria and another 5,000 in Iraq. The need for American combat infantry is apparently being driven by the need to seize Raqqa, the capital of the ISIL caliphate, much faster than planned.
The commitment of a U.S. force that will be the equivalent of two U.S. infantry divisions will break completely with the strategy of former U.S. president Barack Obama, who relied on small teams of elite warriors from the United States Special Operations Forces (SOF) to advise and guide the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting both Assad and ISIL.
Sources in the army revealed that some 2,000 men from the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) stand ready to be deployed to Syria. Some 1,800 men from the 2nd BCT are in Iraq as part of the U.S. military's train-and-advise mission.
The big question now is how Russia will react to this massive U.S. military deployment that also threatens the regime of its ally, Bashar al Assad.