Both U.S., Russia strengthening engagement with Kurdish forces in Syria

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A deployment of largely Army Green Berets will join the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) in Syria, Obama administration officials confirmed on April 24.

The Green Berets are among a group of 250 military personnel being deployed to Syria, increasing to 300 the number of U.S. forces battling ISIL. The group will also include an unknown number of medical and logistical support troops.

A new deployment of 250 U.S. troops to Syria will consist mainly of Army Green Berets.
A new deployment of 250 U.S. troops to Syria will consist mainly of Army Green Berets.

The expanded U.S. presence in Syria is aimed in part at assisting Kurdish fighters who have had the greatest success on the ground against ISIL. The additional U.S. forces will work with Kurdish militiamen and others as they seek to isolate Raqqa, the terror group’s de facto capital in Syria.

The plan to toward Raqqa follows last year’s successful northern Syria offensive that was led primarily by Kurdish forces, aided by U.S. airstrikes.

Russia, meanwhile, said it has sent troops to fight alongside Kurdish units in northwestern Syria and is providing weapons to Iraqi Kurds.

President Barack Obama said the troop deployment was part of discussions he had with an adviser about options should the cease-fire in Syria break down.

“None of the options are good,” Obama said during his visit last week to Saudi Arabia. “It has been my view consistently that we have to get a political solution inside of Syria and that all the external actors involved have to be committed to that as well as the actors inside of Syria. … The sooner we can end fighting and resolve this in a political fashion, the better.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the deployment of a similar number of troops and eight Apache attack helicopters to Iraq.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s state run Anatolia news agency reported on April 25 that Turkish forces have killed almost 900 alleged members of ISIL since January through artillery fire and air raids.

As part of the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIL, Turkey has killed 492 “terrorists” since Jan. 9 in air raids, while another 370 were killed in artillery strikes which also destroyed arms depots, the news agency said.

The figures could not be independently verified.

In recent weeks, the Turkish border town of Kilis has come under frequent attack from rockets fired across the border from Syria, prompting the army to respond to each strike with howitzer fire.