Obama weighs moving U.S. troops closer to front lines in Syria, Iraq

President Obama’s most senior national security advisers have recommended measures that would move U.S. troops closer to the front lines in Iraq and Syria, officials said, a sign of mounting White House dissatisfaction with progress against the Islamic State and a renewed Pentagon push to expand military involvement in long-running conflicts overseas.

The debate over the proposed steps, which would for the first time position a limited number of Special Operations forces on the ground in Syria and put U.S. advisers closer to the firefights in Iraq, comes as Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter presses the military to deliver new options for greater military involvement in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

The changes would represent a significant escalation of the American role in Iraq and Syria. They still require formal approval from Obama, who could make a decision as soon as this week and could decide not to alter the current course, said U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions are still ongoing. It’s unclear how many additional troops would be required to implement the changes being considered by the president, but the number for now is likely to be relatively small, these officials said.

The recommendations came at Obama’s request and reflect the president’s and his top advisers’ concern that the battle in Iraq and Syria is largely stalemated and in need of new ideas to generate momentum against Islamic State forces.

The list of options that went to the president was generated by field commanders and vetted by the president’s top national security advisers, including Carter and Secretary of State John F. Kerry, in a series of meetings over the past few weeks.

The recommendations delivered to Obama would not put U.S. forces in a direct combat role. But they reflect a major shift in mission for the Pentagon, where as recently as last year officials were focused on winding down U.S. wars and on emerging threats such as China’s military rise.

Full article: Obama weighs moving U.S. troops closer to front lines in Syria, Iraq (The Washington Post)

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