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US prepared to increase special forces in Syria: Pentagon chief

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. testify before the House Armed Services Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on December 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter says the United States is "prepared to expand" the role of Special Operations Forces in Syria.

"American special operators bring a unique suite of capabilities that make them force multipliers," Carter told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

"Where we find further opportunity to leverage such capability, we are prepared to expand it," he added.

The United States has already deployed dozens of ground troops to Syria claiming they will assist Kurdish forces in their battle against Daesh (ISIL) terrorists.

On October 30, senior Obama administration officials said that Washington would send some 50 special forces to Syria to "train, advise and assist" militants fighting against the Daesh, in an apparent breach of Obama's promise not to put US “boots on the ground" there.

A top official told the BBC that this does not indicate a change in US strategy, but an "intensification" of the military campaign.

The presence of US troops on the ground in Syria lacks any mandate from the Syrian government. Damascus says it is a violation of its sovereignty.

The US is escalating its involvement in Syria amid Russia’s intensifying campaign in the country to assist President Bashar al-Assad in fighting against ISIL terrorists. The US forces will remain in Syria for the foreseeable future.

On September 30, Russia began its military campaign against Daesh terrorists and militants fighting against the Syrian government. Moscow has carried out scores of airstrikes, killing hundreds of terrorists. 

US officials claim that Russia has directed parts of its military campaign against US-backed militants and other extremist groups in an effort to weaken them.

They say the CIA-trained militants are under Russian strikes with little prospect of rescue by their American supporters.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The crisis has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people so far and displaced millions of others.

US deploying "specialized" troops in Iraq

A US Army soldier leads a group of Iraqi troops in July 2011. (Photo by the US Department of Defense)

Carter also told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the Pentagon is deploying "specialized" troops in Iraq to help fight Daesh terrorists.

"In full coordination with the Government of Iraq, we're deploying a specialized expeditionary targeting force to assist Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces and to put even more pressure on ISIL," Carter said, using an alternative acronym for the terrorist group.

"These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture ISIL leaders," he added.

On Sunday, Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called for Washington to nearly triple the US military force levels in Iraq to 10,000, and send an equal number of troops to Syria to “counter” Daesh terrorists.

About 3,500 US troops are currently “advising and assisting” Iraqi forces in the fight against Daesh.

The United States and its allies have been conducting airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since last year.

Observers say while the US and its allies claim they are fighting against terrorist groups like Daesh, they in fact helped create and train those organizations to advance their policies in the Middle East.

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