On Wednesday, the Commander of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) told reporters during a trip to the Middle East that the United States may have to send a larger number of troops to Syria to help maintain momentum in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). With just days left before the Pentagon is set to present a new plan to President Donald Trump outlining how to defeat ISIS, Gen. Joseph L. Votel stressed that U.S. troops would not be sent to Syria to take over the fight, but to assist local forces that are already taking the lead.
“I am very concerned about maintaining momentum,” Gen. Votel told reporters.
“It could be that we take on a larger burden ourselves,” he continued, as quoted by the New York Times. “That’s an option.”
When asked by a CBS News reporter if the U.S. would send more troops into Syria Gen. Votel responded, “perhaps.”
He added that the Syrian troops taking the lead in the fight “don’t have as good mobility, they don’t have as much firepower, so we have to be prepared to fill in some of those gaps for them and that may involve additional fire support capability, a variety of other things that we bring in to help offset some of the gaps that they have and we take the burden on ourselves for that aspect of the fight.”
Currently, the United States has about 500 Special Operations troops in Syria, but if more forces were sent to the region, Gen. Votel said they would be primarily combat units and stressed that he was not looking to deploy large combat formations.
“We want to bring the right capabilities forward,” he told reporters. “Not all of those are necessarily resident in the Special Operations community. If we need additional artillery or things like that, I want to be able to bring those forward to augment our operations.”
In late January, President Trump issued an executive order that in part gave Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis a 30-day timeframe to hand over a proposal for a fully outlined plan of how to beat ISIS. According to Pentagon Spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis on Tuesday, the Pentagon is on track to hand over the new plan before their time is up.
“We are on track to deliver it on time,” he said.
“This is going to be a comprehensive, whole-of-government plan that’s going to address not only the core ISIS in Iraq and Syria, but it’s going to address the other areas where ISIS has sprung up,” Davis continued.