American special forces soldiers fire as they advance during the “Swift Response” airborne training exercise in Hohenfels, southern Germany on August 26, 2015. (AFP photo)
The United States
is preparing to ramp up its military campaign against the Daesh terrorist group, by increasing the number of Special Operations forces in Syria
and deploying Apache helicopter gunships to the battlefield in Iraq
, officials say.
The goal would be to advise and assist the Iraqi security forces and US
-backed militant units in Syria fighting the terrorist organization, the New York Times
The administration of President Barack Obama is considering deploying dozens of Special Operations forces inside Syria, on top of about 50 who are already on the ground there advising and training US-backed militants, Pentagon and military officials said.
The additional troops, who could total as many as 200, would assist Syrian Arab fighters as they gear up to capture Raqqah, the de facto capital of Daesh, officials said.
The US military has also resumed a highly-criticized program to train new groups of militants to fight Daesh in Syria.
In Iraq, military planners would like to move US “military advisers” closer to the battlefield in Mosul for the anticipated assault on the country’s second largest city. The plan also calls for deployment of Apache helicopter gunships, which are already in Iraq to protect American personnel, to take part in military operations in the city.
An AH-64 Apache from the US Army’s 101st Aviation Regiment in Iraq (file photo)
The Pentagon has acknowledged that the US force level in the country has already exceeded the authorized level of 3,870 approved by President Obama.
Officials have quietly said that the actual number is closer to 5,000 when accounting for troops considered to be on “temporary” deployment.
The proposed military options are still under consideration pending decisions in Washington and Baghdad and could be announced in the next several days, five Defense Department and military officials told theTimes on the condition of anonymity.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Saturday that the Obama administration will increase its military operations against Daesh terrorists, but did not discuss the specifics.
“You should expect us, to see us, doing more,” he said at a news
conference at the Al Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates.
Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford hold a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, March 25, 2016. (AFP photo)
Carter said the military options will include the use of members of the American armed services as well as the US cyber capabilities. “It will be consistent with the same approach, but it’ll be across all the domains, right up to cyber.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said last month that he and the Pentagon chief believed there would be an increase in US forces in Iraq in the coming weeks.
Daesh terrorists, who were among the militants initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, now control large parts of Iraq and Syria. They are engaged in crimes against humanity in the areas under their control.