US to send up to 200 additional troops to Syria

Defense Secretary Ash Carter made an unannounced visit to Iraq on Sunday, where he will get an update on the push to seize the city of Mosul from ISIS, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.

Syrian pro-government forces patrol the area of Marja Square and the surrounding neighbourhoods in Aleppo on December 10, 2016. Syria's government has retaken at least 85 percent of east Aleppo, which fell to rebels in 2012, since beginning its operation on November 15.      (Photo credit: GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian pro-government forces patrol the area of Marja Square and the surrounding neighbourhoods in Aleppo on December 10, 2016.
Syria’s government has retaken at least 85 percent of east Aleppo, which fell to rebels in 2012, since beginning its operation on November 15. (Photo credit: GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Carter will thank the US, coalition, and Iraqi troops participating in the fight against the terror network and he will “survey key locations directly supporting the battle for Mosul,” the statement said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, Kurdistan Regional Government President Masoud Barzani and Carter will discuss the next moves in the fight.

The defense secretary will also meet with members of the Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga, the fighters on the front lines in the battle, and with coalition and US. military personnel.

The visit comes during Carter’s trip across the globe to thank US troops for their service to “advance U.S. priorities including the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.”

Carter’s trip

On Saturday, Carter spoke at the Manama Dialogue, a regional security summit hosted in the capital of the Gulf state of Bahrain.

He said the United States would send up to 200 additional US troops to Syria to help train and assist US-backed local forces that are driving towards ISIS’ self-declared capital in Raqqa, Syria.

The new contingent would include special operations forces, trainers, advisers, and explosive ordinance disposal teams, he said.

“This latest commitment of additional forces within Syria is another important step in enabling our partners to deal ISIL a lasting defeat,” Carter said, using the government’s preferred acronym for the terror organization commonly known as ISIS.

Carter also stopped in Japan, India and Afghanistan. He plans to visit Israel, Italy and the United Kingdom, Cook said in the statement.

The UK trip is the last stop of his journey. He plans to take part in a meeting of defense ministers from leading members of the coalition to vanquish ISIS.