Obama announces 250 new military personnel for Syria

U.S. Army  (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika) (Released)

U.S. Army (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika) (Released)

United States (U.S.) President Barack Obama has said he plans to send 250 more troops to Syria, a sharp increase in the number of Americans working with local Syrian forces.

“I’ve decided to increase U.S. support for local forces fighting ISIL in Syria … I’ve approved the deployment of up to 250 U.S. personnel in Syria, including special forces,” Obama said, announcing the decision after a meeting in Hanover with German Chancellor Angela Merkel

The deployment, which will increase U.S. forces in Syria to about 300, aims to accelerate the process of driving back the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), White House adviser, Ben Rhodes, said.

Obama also said that Europe needed to take on its share of the burden to ensure collective security, adding that the Western allies could do more in the fight against ISIL.

ISIL controls the cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq and is proving a potent threat abroad, claiming credit for major attacks in Paris in November and Brussels in March.

While Obama has resisted deploying U.S. troops in Syria, he initially sent 50 U.S. special operations personnel there last year.

The U.S. officials described the forces as being on a “counterterrorism” mission rather than involved in an effort to tip the scales in the war, which United Nations (UN) envoy, Staffan De Mistura, estimates has killed 400,000 people.

Obama pledged to wind down wars in the Middle East when he was first elected in 2008. However, in the latter part of his presidency, he has made decisions to keep or add to the numbers of troops deployed to conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

The president is ending a six-day international trip that began in Riyadh, where he held talks with Gulf Arab monarchs concerned that Washington’s commitment to the Middle East had waned.

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