Initially having deployed to the general vicinity in October as part of a naval mission, US Marines from the 11th Expeditionary Unit have over the past few weeks quietly gone ashore in Syria and moved to the area around the ISIS capital of Raqqa, establishing an artillery base.
Details are still scant. Officials refused to confirm the size of the unit or other details, beyond them having a number of M777 howitzers, and a support unit of infantry Marines along with them, marking the first time US artillery has been deployed into Syria.
The idea in this case is to have advanced US artillery on hand, with US troops firing it, in support of the Kurdish YPG’s eventual invasion of the city of Raqqa. The US announced the invasion fo Raqqa last year, and so far Kurdish forces have only surrounded parts of the city.
It is unknown how many US troops are now active in Syria. When President Trump took office, estimates were around 300, but a number of Army Rangers were deployed over the weekend into Manbij, and these deployments apparently happened before that, though we’re only just hearing about them now.
These deployments appear to be separate from Pentagon recommendations for substantial numbers of ground troops sent to Syria, recommendations that were delivered last week, and which officially have not been decided upon yet.