Defense Secretary: More US troops possible in Syria

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told ABC News that more U.S. troops “absolutely” could be sent to Syria if additional capable local forces are found.

“If we find additional groups that are willing to fight ISIL and are capable and motivated, we’ll do more,” Carter told ABC, using the administration’s preferred acronym for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). “The president has indicated a willingness to do more, I certainly am prepared to recommend he do more, but you need to have capable local forces; that’s the key to sustainable victory.”

President Obama has repeatedly said there will not be U.S. boots on the ground in Syria. But late last month, the administration announced that it is sending fewer than 50 Special Operations troops to the country, serving in an advisory role.

“What they are doing there is they are enabling local forces, a mixture of Kurds and Syrian Arabs, who want to fight ISIL,” Carter said. “So this small, very elite group, is intended to bring to bear all that the United States can bring to bear, in the way of intelligence, air power and so forth, to help these motivated, capable local forces.”

“And this is an instance of the whole strategy,” Carter added. “We have to beat ISIL. We will beat ISIL. ISIL’s heart is in Syria and Iraq.”

Carter also noted the U.S. military’s role as a stabilizing force in Asia, as a U.S. Naval ship recently sailed close to a controversial Chinese artificial island in the South China Sea.

“For our part, we’re going to continue to stay on and fly and operate wherever international law permits as we have done for decades,” Carter said.

Peter Sullivan