New York [USA], Mar. 9 (ANI): The United States has deployed its marines in northern Syria with artillery to support the local forces fighting there.
According to CNN, the US-backed fighters are preparing to move in the coming weeks to assault the city of Raqqa, ISIS' self-declared capital, according to the officials.
The Pentagon and the Marine Corps have declined to confirm the deployment because of security concerns in the region. They have also declined to specify the exact location or strength of the forces.
The deployment marks a new escalation in the U.S. war in Syria and puts more conventional U.S. troops in the battle.
Several hundred Special Operations troops have advised local forces there for months, but the Pentagon has mostly shied away from using conventional forces in Syria.
The new mission comes as the Donald Trump administration weighs a plan to take back Raqqa, the so-called capital of the Islamic State, that also includes more Special Operations troops and attack helicopters.
The force is part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which left San Diego on Navy ships in October.
The marines on the ground include part of an artillery battery that can fire powerful 155-millimeter shells from M777 Howitzers, two officials said while speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The ISIS could have as many as 4,000 fighters in Raqqa, according to very rough US estimates, the official said. (ANI)