US to send ‘fewer than 50’ forces to aid Syrian rebels against IS

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Oct 30, 2015 21:55 IST
US secretary of state John Kerry (L) and Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry chat before a bilateral meeting as part of talks with 17 nations, the European Union and United Nations at the Hotel Imperial, in Vienna, Austria. Kerry and other leaders are in Vienna to discuss solutions to the conflict in Syria. (AFP Photo)

Scaling up its operations in Syria significantly, the US will send less than 50 Special Operations forces to aid and advise rebels fighting the Islamic State, according to media reports.

The United States will deploy “fewer than 50” special operations forces to northern Syria in an advisory role, US officials said on Friday, as major powers met in Vienna to find a political solution to the conflict.

President Barack Obama “has authorized a small complement -- fewer than 50 -- of US Special Operations Forces to deploy to northern Syria, where they will help coordinate local ground forces and coalition efforts to counter ISIL,” said a senior administration official, referring to the Islamic State group.

The US has so far only conducted air strikes in Syria along with its coalition partners, with very few ground raids.

However, it has special forces in aid and advise roles across the border in Iraq.

This development comes as foreign ministers from 20 countries were meeting in Vienna to discuss Syria and the future of its leader Bashar al-Assad.

There appears to be some convergence of positions on Assad’s future among his allies Russia and Iran, and the US, Saudi Arabia and others.

Both sides agreed he must go, but not immediately. He could stay on for a few months to facilitate a smooth transfer of power.

(With inputs from AFP)

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