BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan: US Secretary of State John Kerry says American special operations troops being sent to Syria will only fight Islamic State militants and won't become involved in the long-running civil war. Kerry calls IS a threat to every nation and says US policy is clear - the group must be defeated.
Kerry isn't ruling out a further US escalation of the fight, saying he can't predict the future. The Obama administration is sending up to 50 special operations troops to assist Kurdish and Arab forces in northern Syria. It's the first pledge of American military boots on the ground in Syria. Kerry spoke yesterday at a news conference in Kyrgyzstan alongside the country's foreign Minister, Erlan Abdyldaev.
A decision by US President Barack Obama to send special forces to Syria is strictly focused on fighting Islamic State insurgents and does not signify the United States is entering the civil war there, Kerry said.
"President Obama has made a very strong and forceful and simple decision entirely in keeping with his originally stated policy that we must defeat and destroy Daesh," Kerry said, using the Arabic term for Islamic State.
"It is not a decision to enter into Syria's civil war. It is not an action focused on (Syrian President Bashar) Assad, it focused exclusively on Daesh and in augmenting our ability to rapidly attack Daesh," Kerry told a news briefing during a visit to Kyrgyzstan's capital, Bishkek.
Asked about the prospect of the United States sending more troops, or getting drawn deeper into the conflict, Kerry said: "I can't predict what the future will bring when our policy is to destroy Daesh, to fight back against this evil. But I do think the president has made a judgment that I completely advocated for and concur (with)."
The White House announced on Friday that dozens of special operations troops will be deployed to northern Syria to advise opposition forces in their fight against Islamic State, which is also known by the acronym ISIL.
The decision marked a policy shift for Obama, who has long resisted sending troops to avoid getting sucked into another war in the Middle East.
Kerry, at the start of a tour of the five ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia, described Islamic State, as "a destroyer and it is threatening to take actions against America, Canada and Mexico, against countries all aroun
d the world. So ISIL is a... threat that we have to respond to."
Kerry is in the region in part to reassure governments that are anxious about the threat from Islamist militants, especially those operating in nearby Afghanistan, according to a US official who briefed reporters on the trip.
Commandos in Syria?
Kerry refused yesterday to rule out more US commandos being sent to Syria beyond the 50 already assigned to the fight against the Islamic State group. Speaking in the Kyrgyz capital during a tour of Central Asia, Kerry said he fully supported President Barack Obama's decision to put troops on the ground in Syria.
He said the soldiers were not being sent to battle President Bashar Al-Assad's regime or become embroiled in the Syrian civil war, but simply to help destroy the IS group.
"ISIL is the modern personification of evil," he said, using an alternative acronym for the jihadist force that has seized eastern Syria and northern Iraq. "President Obama has made a very straightforward and simple decision entirely in keeping with his originally reported policy, that we must defeat and destroy Daesh," he said, using an Arabic term for the IS group.
Asked whether he could rule out more troops being assigned to the mission, he said: "I can't predict what the future will bring when our policy is to destroy Daesh, to fight back against this evil.
"But I do think the president has made a judgement that I completely advocated for and concur in." Kerry was speaking at a news conference with Kyrgyzstan's Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev, and noted that the IS group had recruited fighters from that country. Both diplomats said their countries would work together more closely against the threat. Kyrgyzstan's acting foreign minister, Erlan Abdyldayev, said at the news briefing with Kerry that his government was concerned about instability in northern Afghanistan.
He said the subject would be discussed when, later in his tour, Kerry meets foreign ministers from the five central Asian states in the Uzbek city of Samarkand. - Agencies