BEIRUT, LEBANON (10:15 P.M.) – On Wednesday, Colonel Ryan Dillon confirmed dozens of US military advisors were deployed inside Raqqa city itself with US Marines providing artillery support against ISIS from the surrounding countryside.
The troops, many of them special operations forces, are working in an “advise, assist and accompany” role to support Kurdish fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as they battle ISIS, said US-led Coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon.
The troops are not in a direct combat role but are calling in air strikes and are working closer to the fight than did U.S. forces supporting the Iraqi military in Mosul. “They are much more exposed to enemy contact than those in Iraq,” Dillon added.
The Pentagon is secretive about exactly how big its footprint is in Syria, but has previously said some 500 US special forces are there to train and assist the SDF.
Thus far, the SDF – heavily assisted by US soldiers and warplanes – have captured some 35% of Raqqa city despite facing fierce resistance from ISIS belligerents.
A series of new photos also reveal the US military has constructed several fortified air fields in northern Syria for its warplanes to launch sorties against ISIS more easily.