The US is beefing up its military troops in Syria by sending 200 additional personnel to help the war-torn country in its campaign to drive out the Islamic State (Isis) militants from Raqqa, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said on Saturday (10 December).
Speaking at a conference in Bahrain on Middle East security, Carter said the 200 personnel will include special forces trainers, advisers and explosive ordnance disposal teams. They will be joining the 300 US special forces team who are already stationed in Syria.
"These uniquely skilled operators will join the 300 US special operations forces already in Syria, to continue organising, training, equipping and otherwise enabling capable, motivated, local forces to take the fight to ISIL [Isis or Daesh]," Reuters cited Carter as saying.
Carter said President Barack Obama approved the troop additions last week.
He accused Russia and its military for backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying its involvement has escalated tensions and war in cities like Damascus, Aleppo, Raqqa, and has resulted in prolonged suffering for the Syrian people.
Besides Russia, Assad's regime is also backed by Iran and some Shi'ite militias who are against mostly Sunni Arab moderate rebels backed by the US, Turkey and Gulf countries. While there is a primary conflict between Assad's troops and the rebels, both the sides are also launching offensives simultaneously against the Isis militants, to drive them out of their strongholds in Raqqa and Iraq.
Carter also noted that many Sunni-led Gulf countries have expressed concern about the spread of Iranian influence in the Middle East.
"The fact is, if countries in the region are worried about Iran's destabilising activities - a concern the United States shares - they need to get in the game. That means getting serious about starting to partner more with each other, and investing in the right capabilities for the threat," he said.