The Obama administration announced a major troop level increase in Syria Saturday as Islamic State fighters seized the ancient city of Palmyra.
The U.S. will send 200 additional troops to Syria in order to support the Kurdish and Arab forces besieging Raqqa, the city which acts as ISIS’s de facto capital. Around that same time, ISIS forces moved into Palmyra after enduring a heavy bombardment from Russian forces. The terrorist group took the entire city Sunday, according to ISIS’s Amaq news agency. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) confirmed the reports.
“This latest commitment of additional forces within Syria is another important step in enabling our partners to deal ISIL a lasting defeat,” said Carter while speaking at a security conference in Manama, Bahrain.
The additional troop deployment nearly doubles U.S. forces in the country. There are currently 300 U.S. troops operating in Syria. The new force will be primarily comprised of special operations units and bomb squad specialists.
The additional forces will be welcomed by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and other anti-ISIS groups operating in the country, though they may not be enough to achieve the “lasting defeat” the administration is hoping for. In addition to retaking Palmyra, ISIS units have reverted back to traditional terrorist tactics as the group continues to lose territory. ISIS claimed it engaged in 1,034 suicide bombings this year, a record high. ISIS also encouraged its adherents to engage in terrorist attacks in its name in their home countries after it became clear the caliphate was losing territory. The group provided manuals and how-to instructions for engaging in terrorist attacks through its various media publications. Several attacks across the West resulted, ranging from Paris to San Bernardino.
ISIS published a huge amount of propaganda shortly after the seizure of Palymra, including several videos and images. While the victory is a welcome one for the beleaguered terrorist group, it is unclear as to how long it will be able to hold the city going forward.
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