The US Defense Department might persuade President Donald Trump to authorize sending combat troops to Syria, an official says.
“It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time,” CNN reported on Wednesday night, citing a US defense official.
The decision is ultimately up to Trump, who has ordered his Defense Secretary James Mattis to put together a viable proposal to solve the ongoing crisis in the Arab country, the official added.
During the presidential campaign, Trump had openly supported deploying a large contingent of US troops to Syria.
“We really have no choice, we have to knock out ISIS (Daesh),” Trump said in March. “I would listen to the generals, but I’m hearing numbers of 20,000-30,000.”
The US has already sent several hundred of its special operations forces to Syria. However, their operations have been limited to what the Pentagon describes as training and assisting Kurdish fighters in their battle against Daesh (ISIL) and other terrorist groups.
When authorizing the limited deployments, then-US President Barack Obama had stressed that ground troops were not an option.
Mattis made it clear during his Senate confirmation hearings that he was against Obama’s approach.
According to CNN, the idea of using ground troops still remains a point of discussion among US military officials, who refuse to make it a formal proposal.
The US and its allies have been carrying out airstrikes against alleged Daesh positions across Syria since 2014.
Compared to Special Ops forces, conventional troops operate in larger numbers and require air and ground support as they engage the enemy.
The American ground forces might seek to reassure Turkey that Kurdish forces are not posing a threat to Ankara, CNN added.
Back in August, Turkish special forces, tanks and jets, backed by planes from the US-led coalition launched a ground incursion into Syria, in an alleged bid to battle Daesh and the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a US-backed Kurdish group.
It is possible some troops would deploy first to Kuwait and then move into Syria, according to CNN.
Syria has been fighting a foreign-sponsored militancy for almost six years. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura estimated in August last year that more than 400,000 people had been killed in the Syria crisis until then.