“Hundreds of US marines have arrived in Syria armed with heavy artillery in preparation for an assault on Isisu2019 de-facto capital of Raqqa.
A spokesperson for US Central Command told The Independent a Marine Corps artillery unit would provide u201cgreater agility to enable and expedite our Syrian partnered forces defeat of Isis in Raqqau201d.
u201cThe strategy adopted by the Coalition remains the same u2013 we will continue to work by, with and through partnered forces to defeat Isis in Iraq and Syria,u201d he added.
u201cOur partners in Syria face an entrenched foe and like the Iraqis, will require additional support.u201d
Col John Dorrian, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, said the artillery unit and additional Army Rangers had arrived in recent days but would not have a frontline role.
Kurdish-led forces launch offensive on Syria’s Raqqa
u201cWe are talking about an additional 400 or so forces in total, and they will be there for a temporary period,u201d he told Reuters.
The deployment bolsters around 500 special forces troops who are already on the ground to train and support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), who have driven Isis out of swathes of territory in northern Syria.
With backing from US-led coalition air strikes, the Kurdish-led alliance has been fighting to isolate Raqqa city for months, blocking another main road out of the stronghold this week.
The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit has arrived in the region armed with 155mm howitzers ready to be positioned for the offensive.
The move mirrors tactics ahead of the assault on Mosul in neighbouring Iraq, where the US set up bases outside the city of use as logistics and heavily artillery hubs.
Progress by Iraqi forces has slowed after in the western half of the city as Isis responds with car bombs, drones, suicide attacks and ambushes after digging tu
els between houses and setting booby traps for advancing troops.
The battle could act as a blueprint for a future assault on Raqqa, where up to 4,000 Isis fighters have been reinforcing the city of 300,000 residents for three years.
The marinesu2019 deployment is believed to have been pla
ed under Barack Obamau2019s administration, with details of a new plan to defeat Isis yet to be made public after being sent to the White House last month.
In pictures: Mosul offensive
22 show all In pictures: Mosul offensive”