The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and the Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment have touched down in Syria
The Washington Post reports
The new Marine mission was disclosed after members of the Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment appeared in the Syrian city of Manbij over the weekend in Strykers, heavily armed, eight-wheel armored vehicles. Defense officials said they are there to discourage Syrian or Turkish troops from taking any moves that could shift the focus away from an assault on Islamic State militants.
Marines from an amphibious task force have left their ships in the Middle East and deployed to Syria, establishing an outpost from which they can fire artillery guns in support of the fight to take back the city of Raqqa from the Islamic State, defense officials said.
The deployment marks a new escalation in the U.S. war in Syria, and puts more conventional U.S. troops in the battle. Several hundred Special Operations troops have advised local forces there for months, but the Pentagon has mostly shied away from using conventional forces in Syria. The new mission comes as the Trump administration weighs a plan to take back Raqqa, the so-called capital of the Islamic State, that also includes more Special Operations troops and attack helicopters.
The expeditionary unit’s ground force, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, will man the guns and deliver fire support for U.S.-backed local forces who are preparing an assault on the city. Additional infantrymen from the unit will provide security while resupplies will be handled by part of the expeditionary force’s combat logistics element. For this deployment, the Marines were flown from Dijibouti to Kuwait and then into Syria, said another defense official with direct knowledge of the operation.
The official added that the Marines movement into Syria was not the byproduct of President Donald Trump’s request of a new plan to take on the Islamic State and that it had “been in the works for sometime.”
“The Marines answer a problem that the [operation] has faced,” the official said. He added that they now provide “all-weather fires considering how the weather is this time of year in northern Syria.”
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. general is overseeing the campaign against the Islamic State