The US Is Preparing to Ramp Up Its Ground War in Syria

Defense Secretary Ash Carter says more special operations troops may be on the way.

Cpl. Joseph Scanlan/Planet Pix/ZUMA

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said on Tuesday that the United States is willing to add more soldiers to its small but controversial deployment of special operations troops in Syria—and allow soldiers stationed across the border in Iraq to conduct raids into the country.

The administration announced last month that it was sending a group of fewer than than 50 special operations soldiers to northern Syria to work with the Kurdish-Arab opposition forces fighting ISIS. Carter said those soldiers had produced better intelligence, helped ramp up airstrikes against ISIS, and aided the opposition forces in making important gains. “Where we find further opportunity to leverage such capability, we are prepared to expand it,” he told the House Armed Services Committee at a hearing on Tuesday.

Carter said the United States would deploy a “special expeditionary targeting force” to Iraq that would conduct raids to kill or capture ISIS leaders and create a “virtuous cycle of better intelligence which generates more targets, more raids, and more momentum” against the terrorist group. While the force would be based in Iraq, Carter pointed out that such soldiers would be able to strike into neighboring Syria, where the Defense Department says special operations soldiers aren’t yet taking part in combat. “This force will also be in a position to conduct unilateral operations into Syria,” he said. “The enemy doesn’t respect boundaries. Neither do we,” added Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was testifying alongside Carter.

While neither Carter or Dunford provided more details on the targeting force at the hearing, the rough outline sounded much like the special operations machine that conducted daily raids and intelligence gathering on Al Qaeda fighters and other insurgents during the Iraq War.

Carter also called out the international community for inaction in Syria. “We all—let me repeat, all—must do more,” he said. He praised a “galvanized” France for its airstrikes against ISIS following the terrorist attacks in Paris, but attacked Russia’s air campaign in support of the Syrian government and pointed out that Persian Gulf countries have barely taken part in airstrikes by the coalition against ISIS in months.

“American leadership is essential,” he said. “But the more contributions we receive from other nations, the greater combat power we can achieve.”

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate