Washington: The White House today defended US President Barack Obama's decision to send special operations forces to Syria to counter the Islamic State, saying they would be involved in train-and-advise operations only.
Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that the US Special Forces would be involved in train-and-advise mission and not going there on a combat mission.
"This is not in any way an attempt to diminish the risk that they will face or the bravery that they will need to summon to carry out these operations. This is a dangerous place on the globe and they are at risk, and there's no denying that," Earnest said.
"If we were envisioning a combat operation, we probably would be contemplating more than 50 troops on the ground, but because the responsibility that they have is not to lead the charge to take a hill, but rather to offer advice and assistance to those local forces about the best way they can organize their efforts to take the fight to ISIL or to take the hill inside of Syria, that is the role that they will be playing," he said.
Noting that the situation in Syria is different from that of Iraq, Earnest said the US and its coalition partners do not have a central government with whom they can partner.
"The Assad regime has lost legitimacy to lead that country for a variety of reasons. In fact, they've actually used the military of that country to attack innocent civilians," he said.
Earnest said the core of US Military strategy inside of Syria is to build up the capacity of local forces and to take the fight to ISIL on the ground in their own country.
"There are a variety of ways that the United States and our coalition partners can offer our support to those local forces, whether it's resupplying them or conducting airstrikes in support of their operations on the ground," he said.
"The President did make a decision to intensify that support by offering a small number of US Special Operations Military personnel to offer them some advice and assistance on the ground as they take the fight to ISIL," he said.
"So, this is an intensification of a strategy that the President announced more than a year ago, and he's discussed it with all of you on many occasions, and I suspect he'll discuss it with all of you again in the future," Earnest said.