The United States is deploying an additional 400 troops to help defeat the Islamic State group in Raqa, the jihadists’ self-proclaimed capital in Syria, a spokesman for the US-led coalition said on Thursday.
“They are temporary forces,” US Colonel John Dorrian told reporters in Baghdad, confirming a report in the New York Times, adding that the long-term authorized level of US troops in Syria would remain at 500.
IS jihadists are facing simultaneous offensives in northern Syria by government forces, Turkish-backed rebels, and a US-supported alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.
The additional US troops include a Marines artillery unit being deployed with 155mm howitzers in support of the Raqa offensive.
It also includes US special operations troops equipped with Stryker armored vehicles, which have been sent further north to the Manbij region to deter clashes between Turkish forces and the Americans’ Kurdish-Arab allies.
US special operations forces have been inside Syria since 2015, advising and training the Kurdish-Arab fighters, who are grouped under the umbrella of the Syrian Democratic Forces.
The buildup comes amid calls by US President Donald Trump for new plans to accelerate the pace of the war against the Islamic State group.
US media reports say the plan involves the deployment of artillery, attack helicopters and additional special operations forces.
The US military estimates that there are 3,000 to 4,000 jihadists entrenched in Raqa, a city of 300,000.