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President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama says US 'desperately needs' Biden legislation ahead of key votes Obamas to break ground Tuesday on presidential center in Chicago A simple fix can bring revolutionary change to health spending MORE would consider sending more U.S. Special Operations forces to Syria in the future if the latest deployment proves to be successful, the White House said Tuesday.
“If this additional commitment of additional troops yields positive results … then that’s something that the president would consider,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
Such a request would come from the Department of Defense, and the commander in chief would then either approve or disapprove it.
Earnest said there are no “geographical limitations” on where the U.S. could send troops to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), opening the door to sending American troops to advise fighters battling the extremist group in Libya and other African nations where it has a presence.
But he indicated no such plans are in the works, saying each country is evaluated on an individual basis. The U.S. has conducted some airstrikes against ISIS targets in Libya already.
Obama announced Monday the U.S. would send 250 U.S. troops to Syria, adding to the 50 already there helping to train and advise local forces fighting ISIS on the ground.
The deployment comes less than a week after the president ordered 200 additional troops to Iraq to assist Baghdad’s effort to retake the city of Mosul.
But his decision rankled some members of Congress, who are concerned about the U.S. becoming further entangled in another costly Middle Eastern conflict.
The five-year-long Syrian civil war has left millions dead and left a power vacuum that led to ISIS’s rise.
Obama has repeatedly said he would not make a large-scale deployment of American troops to Syria to battle ISIS or help overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Earnest insisted the American troops would stick to their train-and-advise mission and not lead ground operations against ISIS forces.
But U.S. forces have participated in limited ground missions inside of Syria. Last May, an elite Delta Force unit carried out a raid that resulted in the killing of ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf.
Earnest said Obama weighs the danger posed to U.S. forces “quite carefully, given the significant risk that these special operators are facing.”
“They are not in a combat role, but they are in a role that puts them in harm’s way,” he said. “They are armed for combat; they are armed to defend themselves if necessary.”
— This report was updated at 2:57 p.m.