Secretary Carter speaks to “Boots on the Ground”

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has again addressed the controversial issue of U.S. “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Syria, saying that more American troops would be deployed in an “enabling” role.
“Boots on the ground? We have 3,500 boots on the ground” in Iraq and “we’re looking for opportunities to do more,” Carter told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
Carter acknowledged there are about 50 U.S. Special Forces serving as advisers in Syria to local forces opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in addition to the 3,500-3,600 American troops serving as trainers and advisors to the Iraqi Security Forces.
“We’re not looking to substitute for local forces in terms of governing and policing the place,” Carter said. “That’s why we put Special Forces in Syria. They’re tremendous force multipliers. They’re the ones who connect them to the great might of our military. The strategic concept is not to substitute but to enable” local forces, he said.
Carter also referred to the 1,300 soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, who will deploy to Iraq this spring to replace troops from the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division in the training role. The 1st BCT will return to Fort Drum, New York.
In his meetings last week in Switzerland and in Paris, Carter said that the number of U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq would “increase greatly as the momentum of the effort increases.”
Carter said the main focus would be on routing militants affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, from Mosul, the main stronghold of the insurgents in Iraq, and from Raqqa, the self-proclaimed ISIS capital in Syria.