The United States is entering the next phase in its battle to destroy the jihadist cancer of ISIS. Taking the fight to ISIS’ capital, U.S. Marines have landed in Syria to supply artillery to the anti-ISIS coalition looking to launch an offensive campaign against the terror group in the de facto Islamic State capital of Raqqa. “Marines from an amphibious task force have left their ships in the Middle East and deployed to Syria, establishing an outpost from which they can fire artillery guns in support of the fight to take back the city of Raqqa from the Islamic State,” The Washington Post first reported Wednesday, citing defense officials who spoke off-the-record.
While the previous administration dispatched hundreds of “special advisers” and trainers from U.S. military Special Operations units to advise local militias, conventional warfare troops have never participated in the battle against ISIS in Syria.
“The force is part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which left San Diego on Navy ships in October,” notes The Post. “The Marines on the ground include part of an artillery battery that can fire powerful 155-millimeter shells from M777 Howitzers, two officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the deployment.”
Over the last few months, U.S.-backed forces have been escalating attacks against ISIS strongholds in both Iraq and Syria. Disrupting ISIS activity and erasing territorial gains became a priority in the last days of the Obama presidency after years of dismissing the terror group as an irrelevant and non-threatening “jayvee team.”
The Trump administration has chosen to continue escalating the offensive, initiating the preliminary steps of a long-planned strategy to root ISIS out of northern Syria.
Last weekend, the Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment deployed “Strykers, heavily armed, eight-wheel armored vehicles” into the embattled city of Manbij, according to The Post.
Meanwhile in Iraq, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iraqi security forces are securing pathways into east Mosul in hopes of ultimately liberating the city from embedded ISIS militants. With west Mosul safely in Iraqi hands, east Mosul’s downfall would spell an end for ISIS’ contiguous caliphate in Iraq.