Date
23 March 2017
US President Barack Obama (second from left) chats with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (second from right) during the opening ceremony of the Hannover Messe Trade Fair in Hannover, Germany, on Sunday. Photo: AFP
US President Barack Obama (second from left) chats with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (second from right) during the opening ceremony of the Hannover Messe Trade Fair in Hannover, Germany, on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Obama plans to send 250 more US troops to Syria, say officials

US President Barack Obama plans to send 250 more military personnel to Syria, increasing the American presence on the ground there to about 300 troops to help fight Islamic State militants, US officials said.

The deployment will come on top of 50 special operations forces whom Obama deployed to Syria last year, Reuters reported, citing the unnamed officials.

One official said the announcement would come in a speech Obama plans to give in Hanover, Germany, on Monday.

The decision, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, confirms an April 1 Reuters report that the Obama administration was considering boosting the number of special operations forces in Syria in hopes of accelerating gains against Islamic State.

Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, controls the cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria and is proving a potent threat abroad, claiming credit for major attacks in Paris in November and Brussels in March.

“He intends to put in more … forces to the tune of 250 in Syria,” one US official said, adding he was unable to break down how many of those would be special operations forces and how many might be involved in support activities such as medical and intelligence personnel.

Meanwhile, Obama said he would do whatever he could to advance a controversial trade deal with the European Union in his last eight months in office, but warned that time was running short.

Obama has pushed to complete two trade agreements before his term ends on Jan. 20 – with Pacific nations and with the EU – but has run into a growing swell of populist concerns about the impact on jobs, consumer protections and the environment.

“Time is not on our side,” he conceded to business leaders at the  a massive industrial trade fair.

“If we don’t complete negotiations this year, then upcoming political transitions in the United States and Europe would mean this agreement won’t be finished for quite some time.”

Obama is in Germany to promote the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but the issue was overshadowed by discussions on the crises in Syria, Ukraine and Libya when the two leaders met.

On Monday, they are set to hold talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on some of the same issues.

But first, they had dinner in a 17th century palace with chief executives of some of the largest US and German companies such as Microsoft, Dow, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell, BASF, Bayer and Siemens.

Also at the dinner was Matthias Müller, CEO of Volkswagen, whose company has admitted to cheating diesel emissions tests in the United States, a scandal that involves 11 million vehicles worldwide.

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RA/CG

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