“The latest troop movements come on the heels of the recent temporary deployment of some dozens of Army forces to the outskirts of Manbij, Syria, in what the Pentagon called a ‘reassure and deter’ mission. Flying American flags and moving in large, heavily armored vehicles, the troops were there to keep a lid on tensions in the area, the Pentagon said. It appeared the forces were largely there to insure that Turkish fighters and Syrian opposition groups focused on battling IS rather than each other. Under the existing limits put in place by the Obama administration, the military can have up to 503 U.S. forces in Syria. But temporary personnel do not count against the cap,” Lolita C. Baldor writes for the Associated Press.
“The Marine mission has similarities to an operation the Marine Corps undertook about a year ago when the U.S. military was preparing to support an assault on the Iraqi city of Mosul. In that case, a force from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, from Camp Lejeune, N.C., established a fire base south of the city in support of Iraqi and Kurdish troops who were then carrying out operations to isolate Mosul from Islamic State-held territory around it. The existence of the outpost near Mosul, originally named Fire Base Bell, became public after it was attacked by rockets March 19, 2016, killing Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin and wounding at least four other Marines,” Dan Lamothe and Thomas Gibbons-Neff write for the Washington Post.
“American commanders here estimate about 12,000 to 15,000 troops are needed to take the Islamic State stronghold, with somewhere between 50 to 80 percent of that force being Arab. The ethnic makeup of the force is critical, as Raqqa is an Arab city and the U.S. is trying to allay Turkish concerns over supporting a Kurdish group that Ankara considers to be affiliated with the PKK terrorist group that has waged a bloody campaign in Turkey for decades,” Paul McLeary writes for Foreign Policy.