All week there's been buzz that the White House was mulling whether to send ground troops to Syria to combat ISIS. Now it looks like it's a done deal. An anonymous senior US official says there will be an announcement Friday that the US will send a small number of special operations forces (the AP and Wall Street Journal say no more than 50) to the northern part of the country to help groups who've made headway fighting the militant group, NBC News reports. The US will also work with Iraq to set up a special forces task force to deal with ISIS there, reports the Hill. The "advise and assist" initiative would represent the "first sustained US ground presence in Syria," per the Journal, though a senior administration official notes "we don't have any intention to pursue long-term, large-scale ground combat operations like those we've seen in the past in Iraq and Afghanistan."
The announcement of the plan—a "shift," but not a "change" in ISIS strategy, the official says—is apparently a reaction to what many consider to be a failed mission to take down ISIS overseas, recently leading the US to dump its Syrian rebel-training program. An official notes the US has made "good progress" when working in tandem with local forces that seem to know what they're doing, reports Voice of America. But Rep. Mac Thornberry, head of the House Armed Services Committee, tells NBC he's "concerned that the administration is trying to put in place limited measures—too late—that are not going to make a difference. I don't see a strategy toward accomplishing a goal, I see an effort to run out the clock without disaster." And officials say US troops could still end up fighting ISIS since they're so close to the front lines, the Journal notes. President Obama has mandated ground-attack planes and F-15 fighter jets be sent to Turkey's Incirlik Air Base as reinforcement, the paper adds.