US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. AP Photo.
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter defended the administration's strategy against Islamic State (ISIS) before Congress on Thursday saying progress is being made.
Carter said that US-backed forces on the ground are advancing towards ISIS's two main strongholds, Mosul and Raqqa, and stressed that sending in a large American ground force would backfire and result in the US "fighting on the enemy's terms of ground combat amid a local population that has previously responded violently to such an approach."
Carters comment came after US President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday that another 250 US special forces personnel will be deployed to Syria to assist the Kurdish-majority Syrian Democratic Forces' (SDF) counter-ISIS efforts. They will join the 50 commandos already in northeastern Syria who have helped the SDF coordinate and execute recent offensives against ISIS.
"They're not in a combat role, but they are in a role that puts them in harms way," the White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Tuesday. "They are armed for combat. They are armed to defend themselves if necessary. But the role that they have is to offer advice and assistance to forces on the ground fighting ISIL [ISIS] in their own country. And that has proved to be a valuable tool and one that the president is seeking to intensify."
Carter told Congressmen that he believes his own administration should be clearer about the role of these forces.
"I think these troops are in combat and I think we need to say that clearly," he said.