American Defense Secretary, Ash Carter, announced on Tuesday that the United States would be putting boots on the ground in their fight against Daesh (ISIS).
A new ‘expeditionary force’, to operate independently of other ground forces in the region, is being deployed in response to calls from congressional leaders and a shifting American strategy.
“It puts everybody on notice in Syria,” he said. “You don’t know at night who is going to be coming in the window.”
Until now, American ground forces had been restricted to training roles, helping to prepare and equip Kurdish and other rebel forces, and to one-off hostage-rescue raids — or at least, on paper.
In a recent report by the Guardian, it was revealed that, in fact, American special forces have been much more active than we have been led to believe. Still, this announcement marks a significant escalation in American front-line engagement.
One of the roles the group is intended to fill is centered on identifying targets for airstrikes.
“This is an important capability because it takes advantage of what we are good at,” Mr. Carter said. “We’re good at intelligence. We’re good at mobility. We’re good at surprise. We have the long reach that no one else has.”
Mr. Obama hinted at the importance of this role at the recent climate summit in Paris.
“[The] pace of air strikes is not constrained by the amount of planes and missiles that we have; the pace has been constrained by how many effective targets we have.”
He also identified Turkish boarder security as a key concern in the fight against Daesh.
“There are about 98 kilometres that are still used as a transit point for foreign fighters [and] Isil shipping out fuel for sale that helps finance their terrorist activities,” he said. “We have got to choke them off. We have got to choke off their ability to make money and bring in new fighters.”
“We have taken tens of thousands of fighters off their battlefield, but if new ones continue to come in, then they continue to maintain a stranglehold over certain population centres inside Iraq and Syria.”