By Kasim Ileri
WASHINGTON (AA) – The ultimate goal of deploying U.S. Special Forces in Syria is to cave in Daesh’s control in Raqqa, the head of America’s defense told a Senate panel Thursday.
“Ultimately, the purpose — and the reason the President [Barack Obama] has given us the authority to increase our numbers there — our objective of course is to collapse ISIL’s control over Raqqa” Ash Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced that 250 additional Special Forces would be deployed to Syria, bringing the number of the American forces on the ground there to 300.
According to Carter, the American commandos on the ground will contact, particularly Arab fighters, to bring them into the pipeline of the Pentagon’s vetting process and to train them in the fight against Daesh.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, speaking at the same panel, said there are currently 6,000 Arabs vetted by the U.S. and “as many as twice that number that are currently in the vetting process” thanks to the forces on the ground.
According to Dunford, in order to achieve an offensive in Raqqa, the anti-Daesh coalition would need the help of those Arab fighters as well as the 30,000 PYD fighters in the northern Syria.
But Carter noted that the PYD — an offshoot of outlawed PKK terrorist organization — would not be the right choice to hold and govern the predominantly Arab city as the militant group is predominantly Kurdish.
Carter told lawmakers that the Special Forces will also “serve as a hub to incorporate partner special forces from European and Gulf partners that will augment our coalition’s counter-ISIL efforts there.”
The Defense Department suspended its first Syrian train and equip program at the end of 2015 after the $500 million program failed to graduate less than a dozen fighters.
The Pentagon last month announced that it has resumed the program by loosening the requirements for fighters.
During the hearing, Carter urged lawmakers to release $349 million in funds, needed to feed the initiative.
Congress reportedly blocked a bulk portion of the fund allocated to support the Syrian opposition in their fight against Daesh after it was revealed that the program failed.