U.S. deploys 20,000 troops
near Syrian border

Thursday, November 20, 2003

The United States has deployed 20,000 troops along the Syrian border after Syria failed to stop militants from crossing into Iraq.

As late as October, U.S. officials said hundreds of Islamic insurgents were crossing into Iraqi from Syria. They said Syrian authorities had failed to respond to U.S. appeals to stop the flow of insurgents.

U.S. military officials said the U.S. troop presence was bolstered beginning in September and has resulted in a significant drop in infiltration from Syria. The U.S. troops are based in the Iraqi province of Anbar, Middle East Newsline reported.

Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, said the military completed a 200 percent increase in U.S. troops at Anbar. Swannack told a briefing in Baghdad on Tuesday that the increased deployment was also meant to stop infiltration from other Iraqi neighbors, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

But the U.S. presence has not halted the flow of insurgents from Syria. On Monday, the U.S. military said six suspected insurgents were captured near the Syrian border. One of them was later killed when he tried to attack a guard.

Swannack said the U.S. troop presence in Anbar has resulted in reducing the flow of insurgents from Syria. He said Islamic insurgents have launched attacks against the U.S. force near the 500-kilometer Syrian border. But he called the attacks ineffective.

"We are not fighting foreign fighters coming across the border in significant numbers," Swannack said. "We are fighting mostly former regime locals."

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