Reuters reports: President Barack Obama announced on Monday the biggest expansion of U.S. ground troops in Syria since the civil war there began, saying he would dispatch 250 special forces soldiers to help local militia to build on successes against Islamic State.
The new deployment increases U.S. forces in Syria six-fold to about 300. While the total U.S. ground force is still small by comparison to other American deployments, defense experts said it could help shift the momentum in Syria by giving more Syrian fighters on the ground access to U.S. close air support.
Obama said the move followed victories that clawed back territory from Islamic State.
“Given the success, I’ve approved the deployment of up to 250 additional U.S. personnel in Syria, including special forces, to keep up this momentum,” Obama said in a speech in the German city of Hanover, the last stop on a foreign tour that has taken him to Saudi Arabia and Britain. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: The United States has opened a new line of combat against the Islamic State, directing the military’s six-year-old Cyber Command for the first time to mount computer-network attacks that are now being used alongside more traditional weapons.
The effort reflects President Obama’s desire to bring many of the secret American cyberweapons that have been aimed elsewhere, notably at Iran, into the fight against the Islamic State — which has proved effective in using modern communications and encryption to recruit and carry out operations.
The National Security Agency, which specializes in electronic surveillance, has for years listened intensely to the militants of the Islamic State, and those reports are often part of the president’s daily intelligence briefing. But the N.S.A.’s military counterpart, Cyber Command, was focused largely on Russia, China, Iran and North Korea — where cyberattacks on the United States most frequently originate — and had run virtually no operations against what has become the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world. [Continue reading…]
Reuters reports: Towering over his Kurdish partner at a checkpoint in northern Iraq, U.S. volunteer John Cole cuts an unusual figure on the road to the newest front in the war against Islamic State.
Seven feet (2.1 metres) tall and holding his assault rifle upside down, Cole is among a relatively small band of Westerners who have made their own way to Iraq to take up arms against the militant group – even though Kurdish authorities say they need foreign money and weapons more than men.
Exactly how much fighting Cole has done is unclear, but the 23-year-old said that – unlike most regular U.S. soldiers stationed nearby – he has participated in offensives against Islamic State that involved artillery fire and airstrikes. [Continue reading…]
Al Jazeera reports: Iraq’s military has warned civilians against returning to Ramadi after dozens were killed by mines apparently planted by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in the city’s streets and buildings.
Iraqi forces reclaimed Ramadi from ISIL fighters in December and tens of thousands of residents have moved back to Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, in the past two months.
Most of them have returned from camps east of the city where they took refuge prior to the army’s advance late last year. [Continue reading…]