The US is putting boots on the ground in Syria.
America says the deployment will be an initial group of around 50 special forces for training and advice embedded with what the White House is calling dependable elements of the Free Syrian Army.
“President Obama authorised a small complement of US special operations forces to deploy to northern Syria where they will help to co-ordinate with local ground forces and coalition efforts in order to counter DAESH.
But at the end of the day US and coalition partners believe that there is absolutely nothing that would do more to fight DAESH than to achieve a political transition,” said US Secretary of State John Kerry after talks on Friday.
The air umbrella will also be enlarged, with President Obama’s deployment of fresh ground attack Warthogs and F-15s to Incirlik airbase in Turkey. The NATO facility is already in use for American and Turkish sorties against ISIL.
In recent weeks it is the Russians who have been masters of the Syrian skies, hitting ISIL but more often, allege the opposition, anti-government forces, some of whom are being helped and armed by the Americans. They will welcome the extra US air support.
The policy pivot includes other measures: a new special operations force in Erbil
in northern Iraq and “intensified“ cooperation with Iraqis in retaking Ramadi to hurt ISIL from the east, and expanded security assistance to Jordan and Lebanon