The Wall Street Journal reports: Russia has sent a few dozen special-operations troops to Syria in recent weeks, Russian and Western officials say, redeploying the elite units from Ukraine as the Kremlin shifts its focus to supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia in late September launched a campaign of airstrikes in support of Mr. Assad’s government, and President Vladimir Putin has said Russian troops won’t play a role in ground combat. But Russian military experts and officials say small numbers of special-forces units—whose missions are rarely acknowledged publicly—are also on the ground in Syria.
“The special forces were pulled out of Ukraine and sent to Syria,“ a Russian Ministry of Defense official said, adding that they had been serving in territories in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russia rebels. The official described them as “akin to a Delta Force,” the U.S. Army’s elite counterterrorism unit.
A senior Western official also said a contingent of elite Russian forces was on the ground in Syria from eastern Ukraine. A U.S. defense official said one of their roles is to provide coordination between Syrian troops and Russian aircraft conducting airstrikes in support of the regime’s ground offensive. [Continue reading…]