President Barack Obama announced that an additional 250 special operations forces will be sent to Syria in the coming weeks in a speech in Hannover, Germany, in an effort to stem the influence and spread of ISIS.

Last October, the US deployed up to 50 special operation personnel to northern Syria to help train and coordinate anti-IS forces there. Their focus seems to be on trying to get more Syrian Arab forces into the field as part of a loose alliance of Arab, Kurdish and other fighters.

The additional 250 more troops will expand this work to reinforce the success of the operation. IS has suffered setbacks in both Iraq and Syria and it is under concerted air and cyber-attack with the intent to push its forces back and destroy its sources of revenue.

The crisis has put pressure on EU states which are struggling to halt a massive influx of migrants and refugees.  Germany received close to 477,000 asylum applications last year as almost 1.1m migrants arrived. A further 181,405 asylum applications have been made so far this year.

The expanded U.S. military presence in Syria is aimed at helping to expand the ranks of Arab fighters in a network of groups, now dominated by Kurdish fighters, that the United States is backing as it battles the Islamic State. The additional U.S. forces work with Kurdish militiamen and others as they seek to isolate Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria.

The announcement comes just days after the Obama administration announced that the limit on U.S. forces stationed in Iraq would be lifted by 217, raising the cap to 4,087. Pentagon officials could not say where these troops would come from or when they would arrive but said they would perform roles in advising and training, protecting U.S. forces, maintaining aircraft and calling in fire support.

These new forces could be drawn from the hundreds of additional U.S. personnel already in Iraq but not counted under the official limit the White House has set, such as the Marines firing artillery from Firebase Bell outside the Iraqi city of Makhmour, Pentagon officials said. The true number of Americans in Iraq, believed to exceed 5,000, includes troops on “temporary” duty, such as these Marines, or forces poised to replace others.  With coalition help, the Iraqi security forces hope to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city-which was seized by insurgents in 2014.

Although Iraqi military forces, backed by U.S. air power and other enhancements, retook the city of Ramadi early this year, plans to move toward Mosul, in northern Iraq, have dragged as the Baghdad government contends with economic and political difficulties, and the melding of Iraq’s Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish military forces into a unified offensive force has proved problematic.  The Iraqi military has reportedly been plagued with issues of morale, leadership and logistics.

 

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