The United States military has drafted plans that, if approved by Defense Secretary James Mattis and President Trump, could deploy as many as 1,000 additional troops to Syria ahead of an offensive on Raqqa, The Washington Post reports. Raqqa, which lies in northern Syria, is the de facto capital of the Islamic State.
The discussed deployment could potentially double the number of American forces in Syria, although they would not, at least initially, serve a combat role. The exact number of troops that would be deployed relies on other variables, like the number of allies contributing to the campaign.
The U.S. troops are intended to support Kurdish and Arab fighters as advisers and coordination experts. The White House is also expected to lift Obama-era caps on the number of troops that can be placed in Iraq and Syria: currently 5,000 and 500, respectively.
Defense officials also said there is talk of embedding U.S. forces with Syrian Kurds or Arabs, possibly putting soldiers a step closer to direct combat roles. "Basically, you would have a force bolstered by allies with U.S. leadership," explained a senior U.S. official.
In the past, Trump has slammed reports about military operations. "Whatever happened to the element of surprise, right?" he said. "What a group of losers we have."