US to deploy number of special forces to Syria
The United States will deploy "fewer than 50" special operations forces to northern Syria in an advisory role, US officials said Friday, as major powers met in Vienna to find a political solution to the conflict.
President Barack Obama "has authorised a small complement - fewer than 50 - of US Special Operations Forces to deploy to northern Syria, where they will help coordinate local ground forces and coalition efforts to counter ISIL," said a senior administration official, referring to the Islamic State group.
One official also says the US will be sending additional aircraft, including F-15 fighters and A-10s to the Incirlik air base in Turkey.
Sources said the move, expected to be announced later on Friday, reflected a wider strategy of strengthening moderate rebels in Syria even as Washington intensifies its efforts to find a diplomatic solution to end to the four-and-a-half year Syrian civil war.
The US decision comes after Russia escalated its military role in Syria in September to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia said it would also target Islamic State, but its planes have hit other rebel groups opposed to Assad, including groups backed by Washington.
The announcement was expected as US Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting at peace talks in Vienna.
The talks include the foreign ministers of Russia and Iran, which support Assad, and nations such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which are adamantly opposed to his remaining in power after a civil war in which at least 200,000 people have been killed and millions driven from their homes.