US Considers Increasing Ground Troops in Iraq, Syria
Possibility marks big shift in Obama's plan for the Middle East
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2015 6:39 PM CDT
The Obama administration is considering increasing ground troops in Iraq and Syria to help fight the Islamic State.   (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner, File)

(Newser) – Concerned about the lack of progress against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, President Obama is considering moving troops to the front lines in both countries, the Washington Post reports. A number of options sent to Obama in a memo last week would have a small number of Special Operations forces act in an advisory role to rebels in Syria and Iraqi troops close to the actual fighting in that country. According to the AP, there are currently 3,300 US troops advising in Iraq and none in Syria. Obama could approve the plans as early as this week, the Post reports. "We won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against [ISIS], or conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground," the AP quotes Defense secretary Ash Carter Tuesday.

The Post reports these options represent a major shift in the Obama administration's plans for the Middle East. Just least year, the Pentagon said it wanted wrap up US wars in the region to focus on other threats, such as China's growing military. But on Tuesday, Carter said the US could conduct ground raids against ISIS if needed, according to the AP. The US is specifically interested in helping attack Raqqa, the ISIS capital in Syria, and reclaiming the Iraqi city of Ramadi, which is being held by ISIS. Carter says the goal in stepping up efforts against ISIS is "denying this evil movement any safe haven." But the Post reports such efforts could lead to more US troop casualties in the region.