MESOP Syria Daily: Pentagon Considering Ground Troops v. ISIS of US ground forces inside Syria for first time

16 Febr 2017 – Scott Lucas – eaworldview – The US Defense Department is considering the deployment of conventional ground forces in northern Syria to fight the Islamic State, according to officials who have spoken to CNN.

“It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time,” one defense official said, although he emphasized that the decision must be made by Donald Trump, who ordered Defense Secretary James Mattis to present a proposal by the end of February to combat ISIS.

Since autumn 2015, most of the US military effort inside Syria has been dedicated to support of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, including airstrikes against ISIS targets and the provision of special forces and weapons.

The SDF has pushed back the Islamic State in northeastern Syria, crossing the Euphrates River to advance as far as the city of Manbij in Aleppo Province. However, the offensive has spent months outside Raqqa, the Islamic State’s central position in Syria.

The offensive faces political as well as military issues. Turkey is vehemently opposed to the Kurdish militia YPG, the leading group in the SDF, believing that it is part of the Turkish Kurdish insurgency PKK.

The officials who spoke to CNN said the idea of deploying ground troops is still not a formal proposal. The exact mission has also not been defined, and an official said other options are alsso on the table, including increased cooperation with the Russian military.