Senior U.S. officials say a small number of U.S. special operations forces will be deployed to northern Syria to work with local ground forces in the fight against Islamic State militants.
The deployment marks the first time U.S. troops will be working openly on the ground in Syria.
U.S. officials say President Barack Obama ordered the deployment of fewer than 50 commandos to help coalition forces coordinate with the local troops. The number of special operations troops was likely to be in the range of 20 to 30 according to one U.S. official. A second source confirmed the plan but declined to provide a number.
One official also says the U.S. will be sending additional aircraft, including F-15 fighters and A-10s to the Incirlik air base in Turkey.
The sources said the move, expected to be announced later on Friday, reflected a wider strategy of strengthening moderate rebels in Syria even as Washington intensifies its efforts to find a diplomatic solution to end to the four-and-a-half year Syrian civil war.
The officials were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.
The U.S. decision comes after Russia escalated its military role in Syria in September to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia said it would also target Islamic State, but its planes have hit other rebel groups opposed to Assad, including groups backed by Washington.
The announcement was expected as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting at peace talks in Vienna.
The talks include the foreign ministers of Russia and Iran, which support Assad, and nations such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which are adamantly opposed to his remaining in power after a civil war in which at least 200,000 people have been killed and millions driven from their homes.
Associated Press and Reuters wires
US set to deploy Special Operations forces to Syria
U.S. officials say that fewer than fifty special operations troops will head to Syria where they will support rebel groups fighting Islamic State. CCTV America’s Roee Ruttenberg reports.