KUWAIT/WASHINGTON: Washington is preparing to send at least 1,000 US troops to Kuwait to bolster a reserve force in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. US officials quoted by wire agencies said that the Trump administration is weighing the deployment in the attempt to speed up the ongoing US-led offensive against IS. Yesterday, the US deployed Marines into Syria with heavy artillery as part of an offensive to oust IS from its self-proclaimed headquarters in Raqqa.
The deployment is temporary. But it is likely an early indication that the White House is leaning toward giving the Pentagon greater flexibility to make routine combat decisions in the IS fight. Military commanders frustrated by what they considered micromanagement under the previous administration have argued for greater freedom to make daily decisions on how best to fight the enemy.
The Marines moving into Syria are pre-positioning howitzers to be ready to assist local Syrian forces, said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the deployment publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity. Under the existing limits put in place by the Obama administration, the military can have up to 503 US forces in Syria. But temporary personnel do not count against the cap. The movement of the Marines to Syria was first reported by The Washington Post.
Pentagon leaders sent a new plan to defeat IS to the White House late last month. It outlined a strategy that would likely increase the number of U.S. troops in Syria in order to better advise and enable the US-backed Syrian fighters who will take on the battle for Raqqa. The military has mapped out a series of options for the Syria fight, including increased artillery support, more Apache helicopters and a more robust training campaign.
US officials say the battle for Raqqa will look much like the fight in neighboring Iraq, where local forces are in a fierce battle to retake the northern city of Mosul from IS. As troops were preparing to move into Mosul, the US set up bases outside the city to use as logistical hubs and as locations for heavy artillery.
The Kuwait deployment is likely intended to pre-position US troops closer to the fight, so they can be tapped as needed, are the kinds of decisions that military commanders say they need to be able to make more quickly, without going to the White House every time for approval.
Up to 6,000 US troops are currently deployed in Iraq and Syria, mostly as advisers. “This is about providing options,” an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters regarding the reported plan. The new deployment would provide US commanders on the ground with more flexibility to respond immediately to unforeseen challenges on the battlefield.
Also, according to officials, the decision on whether to use the Kuwait-based reserve force would be left to local commanders – a drastic change in the way the fight against terrorists in the region is handled, as the Obama administration tended to micromanage the details of the war against ISIS.
Reuters’ sources also said the potential deployment would differ from the existing US troop presence in Kuwait. Located on Iraq’s southeastern border, Kuwait has been a staunch ally of the US since 1991, when US forces spearheaded a campaign to drive occupying Iraqi troops out of the country, in what has come to be known as the first Gulf War.
According to Military Bases.com, there are currently eight US Army bases in Kuwait. Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis declined to comment on the options which are being discussed by the Trump administration regarding the fight against ISIS. – Agencies