US President Barack Obama said the US is not putting its troops on the front lines in Syria to fight Islamic State, despite his decision to deploy special operations troops on the ground.
In his first comments since the deployment was announced, Obama said in an NBC News interview that it was merely an extension of what the US was already doing. He noted that the US had run special operations missions in Syria previously.
Obama said US troops won’t be fighting in Syria the way they did in the Iraq War with “battalions and occupations.” He said that doesn’t solve the problem.
Obama’s comments came in an interview three days after the White House announced plans to send up to 50 special operations troops to assist Kurdish and Arab forces in northern Syria.
The decision to deploy ground forces into the Syrian civil war has raised eyebrows and fears in Washington about the incremental but continuing growth in the numbers of US troops deployed to Syria and Iraq by a president who vowed to end America’s presence on the ground in the two countries.
Over the past year, the number of US troops in Iraq helping in the fight against Islamic State has slowly mushroomed to about 3,300, while the US, together with Western allies, launched a campaign of airstrikes against the jihadist group in Syria.