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White House: No Combat Missions for US Troops in Syria

  • VOA News

FILE - U.S. Marines are seen disembarking from a C-130 transport plane.

FILE - U.S. Marines are seen disembarking from a C-130 transport plane.

The White House says U.S. special operations troops sent to Syria will not be there to engage in raids or combat.

"They are not going to be out fighting side-by-side with forces inside Syria," White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said at the Defense One Summit.

Rhodes said the troops are intended to be a force multiplier that will allow for those on the front lines of the fight against ISIL" to better their efforts to take back territory." But he said the U.S. troops "may have to engage the enemy."

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama authorized up to 50 U.S. special operations troops to coordinate Syrian local fighter movements with U.S.-led coalition efforts against Islamic State militants.

The U.S. troops will enter Syria in the next few weeks and stay in the country for no more than 60 days at a time, according to a senior defense official. They will be based at a "quasi-headquarters" of local Syrian forces, Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen fighters, to help with tactics, operational planning and logistics.

"We need to get on the ground, meet them,” said the senior official. "There is nothing like the face-to-face contact."

Another senior U.S. official, in an interview with VOA, said the special operations forces would stay "relatively close enough to the border" with Turkey so they could be pulled out quickly if needed.

These would be the first U.S. ground forces sent to Syria for more than a designated raid or a specific mission.

VOA's National Security Correspodent Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

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