US Special Forces Increasingly Involved in Syrian Kurdish Combat Operations

Pentagon Continues to Insist Troops Are In 'Non-Combat Role'

The Pentagon today reiterated that the US special forces on the ground in Syria are in a purely non-combat role, despite a new spate of photographs showing the troops embedded with Kurdish YPG forces in combat operations.

The photos showed the US Green Berets wearing the insignia of the Kurdish YPG on their uniform, likely to be a topic of contention with US ally Turkey, who considers the YPG to be a terrorist organization. Pentagon officials say it is “fairly common” for US troops to wear other factions’ insignia.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said that US special forces are aiming to “blend in with the community to enhance their own protection” by wearing the Kurdish insignia, while Col. Steve Warren said it was a “sign of partnership” with the Kurds.

The exact number of US ground troops in Syria is not a matter of public record, though Cook did concede that the number has “escalated” from the initial deployment of 50 troops. President Obama signed off on another 250 troops earlier this month, and Pentagon officials were angling for more almost immediately thereafter.

Pentagon officials have twice confirmed US troops inside Syria participated in Kurdish combat operations, above and beyond the engagement shown in the new photographs. Despite this, the official narrative that they would never participate in combat operations remains unchanged, with some officials seemingly determined to keep up this pretense at all costs.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.