First US Troops Head to Middle East to Train Syrian Opposition
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the first group of about 100 US troops to head to the Middle East in the next few days to establish training sites for Syrian opposition fighters.
Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the troops, mostly special operations forces, were authorized last week and would begin arriving in countries outside Syria in the coming days, with a subsequent wave of several hundred military trainers following in the weeks thereafter.
The US focus in the campaign against ISIL has been mainly on Iraq, with the exception of a large number of air strikes to support Kurdish fighters trying to prevent the takeover of the Syrian town of Kobane near the Turkish border, AFP reported.
Kirby said on Friday that Kurdish forces now control about 70 percent of Kobane, which was seen a few months ago as being near collapse, with much of it in the hands of ISIL.
He said the advanced element of US forces headed to establish training sites amounted to fewer than 100 troops.
“They’re going to ... take a look at what’s there and prepare for further deployments,” Kirby said.
Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have offered to host sites where US forces could train members of the Syrian opposition to fight ISIL and provide security in their home communities. Kirby did not say where exactly the first training sites were located.
The US military has said it is planning to send more than 400 troops for the training mission and several hundred support forces for a total of about 1,000 or more.