Syria: US increases presence of ground forces

us_soldiersThe US has increased its presence in Syria with the arrival of 400 troops ahead of a planned assault on Raqqa; the Islamic State’s  de facto capital in the country.

The US troops’ arrival could be seen as the implementation of the “crystal clear” message made by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, according to acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner. Washington’s top priority in the Middle East is to defeat the extremist group, Mark Toner said.

The arrival of the troops is expected to “expedite the defeat” of ISIS in Raqqa, coalition spokesman Colonel John Dorrian. He claimed that efforts to isolate the city are “going very, very, well” and could be completed in a few weeks, which would facilitate reaching a decision “to move in.”

This week, the road between Raqqa and the extremists’ stronghold of Deir al-Zor province, the last main road out of the city, was cut off by anti-ISIS forces.

The presence of US forces in Syria is deemed illegitimate by the Assad government but that has not stopped Washington from increasing its ground forces and carrying out operations against ISIS while supporting other rebel groups.

As Washington prepares for what could be the final assault on Raqqa, Tillerson is expected to host a two-day meeting as of March 22 of Foreign ministers and senior officials from 68 nations and international organizations.

The war against the Islamic State has been ongoing since 2014. The offensive against the group has increased and reports of the whereabouts of its self-proclaimed leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is unknown since his last audio message in November 2016.

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