Obama: US troops won't fight ground war in Syria

Obama: US troops won't fight ground war in Syria
© WhiteHouse.gov

President Obama said Monday that sending 250 additional troops to Syria doesn’t constitute a change in the U.S. mission there. 

Obama told CBS News’s Charlie Rose that, “as a general rule,” American troops will not be fighting directly with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces in that country. Instead, they will beef up the train-and-advise mission that is already underway. 

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“As a general rule, their role is not to engage directly with the enemy but rather to work with local forces that is consistent with our overall policy throughout,” he said in an interview that aired Monday. 

The president’s decision has drawn some scrutiny from some critics, who are wary of U.S. mission creep inside of Syria. 

They are worried American forces could get caught in a quagmire; Syria has been wracked by a civil war for five years, leaving a power vacuum that contributed to ISIS’s rise. 

Despite the administration’s insistence the U.S. isn’t fighting the ground war against ISIS, special forces have participated in targeted raids on the ground in Syria. 

Last May, a Delta Force unit led a raid into Syria that resulted in the killing of ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf. 

Obama this week ruled out sending in U.S. ground forces to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad. 

“It would be a mistake for the United States, for Great Britain, for a combination of Western states to send in ground troops and overthrow the Assad regime,” he said in a separate interview with the BBC. 

The president insisted that U.S. forces would be mostly confined to training local ground forces in Syria fighting ISIS as well as providing intelligence on the extremist group in strongholds like the city of Raqqa. 

It’s a mission Obama says has been successful.

“Although we are not going to send ground troops in to fight, we are going to try to find out what works and then double down,” Obama told CBS.