White House says the U.S. plans to deploy a small number of special operations forces to Syria to advise rebels Washington deems moderate. Rough Cut (no reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: The White House said U.S. President Barack Obama plans to deploy a small number of special operations forces to Syria to advise rebels Washington deems moderate, a step he has long resisted to avoid getting dragged into another war in the Middle East. When asked about the number of troops will be deployed White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, "The less than 50 number is accurate." He added, "I can not be more specific than that, primarily for reasons related to operational security." He said, "Our strategy in Syria hasn't changed, the core of our military strategy inside of Syria is to build up the capacity of local forces, to take the fight to ISIL on the ground in their own country." The move reflected a wider strategy of strengthening moderate rebels in Syria even as Washington intensifies its efforts to find a diplomatic solution to end to the four-and-a-half year Syrian civil war in which at least 200,000 people have died. The U.S. decision comes after Russia escalated its military role in Syria in September to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia said it would also target the Islamic State militant group, but its planes have hit other rebel groups opposed to Assad, including groups backed by Washington. To further counter the militant group, Obama has also authorized deploying A-10s and F-15 aircraft to Incirlik air base in Turkey, a senior administration official said.