Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of US forces in Iraq and Syria, confirmed in an interview today that he still wants more ground troops in Syria, saying the troops would be needed to “fight ISIS,” and adding that he hoped the invasion of Raqqa would be “underway by this summer.”
The US announced the invasion of Raqqa late last year, starting an effort to surround the city which is still going at a slow rate. Townsend conceded in today’s comments that the attack in the actual city of Raqqa could be some way off, and that it might continue into 2018.
Townsend insisted the current troop levels were sufficient for the current mission of surrounding Raqqa, but that assessments on actually invading the city might lead to another request for more troops. The US has already sent substantially more troops to Syria in recent months, though the Pentagon has made it a point of policy to no longer report specific troop levels.
Any addition of more US ground troops to Syria will likely be far more controversial now, as the US attacked Syrian government targets just last week, and the administration continues to talk up the idea that further attacks could happen in the near future.
Syria never gave the US permission to send ground troops to their country, but had mostly ignored that fact since the US was fighting ISIS. With the US apparently shifting to more or less open conflict with Syria, the government is likely to object even more vociferously.