It is believed there are currently 3,550 U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria. These forces are involved in a variety of operations ranging from special forces raids on ISIS targets to general advising of local Iraqi security forces. Carter did not mention if any additional U.S. forces would be added to take back Raqqa and Mosul.
The Obama administration — once vehemently opposed to putting boots on the ground against ISIS — has taken a decidedly different approach since early December when Carter testified to Congress that U.S. forces would conduct “unilateral operations in Syria.”
Carter’s comments Friday come just days before key peace talks regarding the ongoing conflict in Syria in Geneva, Switzerland.
Though Carter was forthcoming regarding the use of U.S. forces to take back Mosul and Raqqa, he also emphasized local forces must play the primary role against ISIS, “it must be local forces who deliver (ISIS) a lasting defeat, because only they can secure and govern the territory by building long-term trust within the populations they liberate.”
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