Beirut, New York- The US-led International Coalition announced on Thursday the deployment of 400 additional US troops and an artillery unit to speed up the Raqqa battle and oust ISIS jihadists from the Syrian city.
Coalition spokesman US Air Force Colonel John Dorrian said the additional forces are there temporarily, adding that the long-term authorized level of US troops in Syria would remain at 500 to help in the fight against ISIS.
Dorrian explained that the US forces would not have a front line role, but rather would be working with local partners in Syria.
Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman (SDF) Talal Silo told Asharq Al-Awsat, “The US reinforcements are the outcome of US President Donald Trump’s plan announced last week to remove ISIS from the area.”
Silo said the US troops already traversed the Simalka crossing with Iraq over the Euphrates River and entered Syria with their gears.
The SDF, which includes the Kurdish YPG, is the main US partner in the war against ISIS in Syria.
The US colonel also said the campaign to isolate Raqqa is going “very, very well,” adding it could be completed in a few weeks.
At the political level, UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said on Thursday that the fifth round of the intra-Syrian talks will resume in Geneva on March 23 to promote substantive talks on four issues: governance, a new constitution, elections and counter-terrorism.
De Mistura announced the new date after reporting late Wednesday to the UN Security Council on the results of the last round of talks which aim at ending Syria’s war.
In a related development, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Thursday afternoon in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Israeli PM said relations between Israel and Moscow were enhanced as a result of their joint efforts to fight terrorism.
However, Netanyahu warned that Iran’s terrorism replaced the threats of ISIS and al-Nusra Front. “The threat of radical Shi’ite Islam threatens us no less than it does the region and the peace of the world, and I know that we are partners in the desire to prevent any kind of victory by radical Islam of any sort,” he said.