U.S. Sending About 400 Marines to Syria to Take Back Control of Raqqa From ISIS

The Marines will join the approximately 500 U.S. troops already in Syria, such as these U.S. forces on the western outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Manbij on Sunday. / Delil Souleiman /AFP/Getty Images

The Pentagon is sending about 400 Marines to Syria to help local fighters wrest control of Raqqa, which ISIS considers its capital.

The Pentagon says the new troops will fire artillery rounds at ISIS fighters in support of the local forces, as well as provide security for the Marine artillerymen, as NPR’s Phil Ewing reports.

These 400 troops will bring the number of U.S. forces on the ground in Syria to about 900, Phil says.

“The military is trying to copy as much as it can from the playbook it’s using in Iraq, where American troops aren’t supposed to be in direct combat, but instead help local forces with indirect fire, airstrikes, training and weapons,” he adds.

The aggressive new strategy marks a shift for the Pentagon, which has “mostly shied away from using conventional forces in Syria,” as The Washington Post reports.

The Syrian Defense Forces — the U.S.-supported coalition led by Kurds that also includes Arab and Turkmen fighters — have been working to isolate Raqqa since November, as we reported. The northern Syrian city, which fell under ISIS control in 2014, is the militant group’s most important stronghold in the country.

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SOURCE: NPR, Merrit Kennedy