U.S. Marines have deployed to Syria with an artillery detachment and associated infantry troops in order to assist U.S.-backed allies in the fight against ISIS. They join U.S. Special Operations forces and U.S. Army Rangers already in country. According to public sources, the Marines have brought with them 155mm M777 howitzers, the Rangers armored Stryker vehicles, and the Special Operations units additional troops and helicopters.
The plan appears to be to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from ISIS. This follows the ongoing effort to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS. In the assault on both cities, the U.S. is providing artillery fire support and additional advisory support to allied troops.
Raqqa and Mosul have functioned as capitals for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. An attack on both simultaneously will help to split ISIS’ forces and efforts. Once the U.S. and its allies capture these cities, ISIS will be denied the supplies afforded by these cities and their territories further divided and fractured.
Thus, the capture of these cities by U.S.-backed forces will help further President Trump’s stated goal of destroying ISIS as soon as possible. It remains to be seen whether or not U.S. troops will become engaged in more direct fighting or if they continue in an advisory and support role. In addition, once ISIS is removed from the major cities there will still be the difficult operation of rooting them out of the smaller towns and villages. That will coincide with tough geo-political decisions such as what to do about Assad in Syria, the extent of Kurdish self-rule, and the general future of Iraq and Syria. The first step, however, is to remove ISIS; the operations in Raqqa and Mosul represent progress in that direction.