The top U.S. commander in the Middle East signaled Thursday that there will be a larger and longer American military presence in Syria to accelerate the fight against the Islamic State group and quell friction within the complicated mix of warring factions there.
Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, told senators Thursday that he will need more conventional U.S. forces to insure stability once the fight to defeat Islamic State militants in their self-declared capital of Raqqa is over. The U.S. military, he said, can’t just leave once the fight is over because the Syrians will need help keeping IS out and ensuring the peaceful transition to local control.
Votel’s testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee comes as up to 400 U.S. forces have moved into Syria in recent days. Well more than half of those are Marines, bringing in large artillery guns for the Raqqa fight, and the rest are Army Rangers who went into northern Syria to tamp down skirmishes between Turkish and Syrian forces near the border. The numbers have been fluctuating, often on a daily basis, as troops move in and out. […]