Obama weighs moving ground troops closer to battle in Syria: Report

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BEIRUT: Senior national security advisers to US President Barack Obama have recommended measures that would put a number of Special Operations forces on the ground in Syria and expand military involvement in Iraq.

The debate over the proposed options reflects growing White House frustration with the failing campaign against Daesh (ISIL), The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

The new changes, which would position American “advisers” closer to combat in Iraq, also come as Defense Secretary Ashton Carter presses the military leaders to deliver new measures for greater military involvement in long-running conflicts overseas.

The recommendations have been put forward at the request of Obama and his national security team who are concerned that the battle in Iraq and Syria has reached a deadlock and is in need of new ideas.

The new measures were generated by field commanders and thoroughly examined by Obama’s senior advisers, including Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry, in a series of meetings over the past few weeks, according to The Post.

The president’s top advisers have reportedly not endorsed costly and ambitious options such as imposing no-fly zones or buffer zones that would require tens of thousands of ground troops to be effectively implemented.

The newly proposed Special Operations forces in Syria would reportedly work in tandem with US-backed militants and Kurdish fighters, supported by American air power, to mount an offensive on northeastern city of Raqqa, the de-facto capital of Daesh.

As for the Iraq side of the border, Obama advisers have recommended embedding US “advisers” at a brigade level for specific operations such as recapturing the western Iraqi city of Ramadi from Daesh militants.

However, the White House has said US troops would not play a “combat role” or be engaged in “large-scale ground combat” in Iraq. 

The Pentagon chief, Carter, and Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are scheduled to discuss the options on Tuesday when they testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The recommended changes come as Russia has entered the fray by launching a coordinated air campaign in Syria.

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