The US is sending 200 additional military personnel to Syria to help drive Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) from Raqqa, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Saturday.
Speaking in Bahrain at the Manama Dialogue conference on Middle East security, Carter said the 200, including special forces trainers, advisers, and explosive ordnance disposal teams, would join 300 US special forces already in Syria.
“These uniquely skilled operators will join the 300 US special operations forces already in Syria, to continue organizing, training, equipping, and otherwise enabling capable, motivated, local forces to take the fight to ISIL,” Carter said, as quoted by AP.
“By combining our capabilities with those of our local partners, we’ve been squeezing ISIL by applying simultaneous pressure from all sides and across domains, through a series of deliberate actions to continue to build momentum,” he added.
On Thursday, US President Barack Obama granted a waiver for restrictions on the delivery of military aid to “foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals,” if those forces are supporting the US’ alleged counter-terrorism efforts in Syria.
The prospect of terrorists coming into possession of those weapons, including MANPADs (man-portable anti-air missiles), “poses a serious threat not only for the region, but the entire world,”
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned, adding that the US’ decision will “definitely” create a risk for the Russian Air Force.
According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the decision to ease restrictions on military aid for foreign forces and other fighters supporting the US in Syria is unlikely to affect the situation in eastern Aleppo.
Moscow is looking for a solution that involves as few casualties as possible, Lavrov stressed, speaking at an OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg.
“I think everyone understands that the militants in east Aleppo are agonizing. We don’t want to support those who would gladly finish off those militants at any cost without any talks. We are ready to solve these problems in a way that would spare us additional casualties and destruction,” he noted.