WASHINGTON — The United States is sending an additional 400 troops to Syria to help prepare for the looming fight for Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate, American officials said on Thursday.
The increase, which includes a team of Army Rangers and a Marine artillery unit that have already arrived in Syria, represents a near-doubling of the number of American troops there.
The United States military has declined to say how many troops it has deployed in Syria. The formal troop cap is 503, but commanders have the authority to temporarily exceed that limit.
The Rangers’ presence became apparent last weekend when they were seen driving around the northern Syrian town of Manbij in Stryker vehicles and armored Humvees. The Washington Post earlier reported the deployment of the Marine artillery battery.
“We are preparing logistical and fire support to enable a successful assault on Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of ISIS,” said Col. John L. Dorrian, a spokesman for the American-led command that is fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The military strategy that is emerging in Syria parallels the approach that the United States has taken in Mosul, Iraq, and largely reflects the assumptions that guided the planning during the Obama administration.
In Mosul, the Americans and their allies have provided the air power, rocket fire, artillery and advisers, enabling Iraqi forces to move forward in their push to take the city’s western half.
Similarly, in the case of Raqqa, the idea is that Syrian forces will do most of the ground fighting but that Americans will assist them with advisers and firepower.
The United States is already carrying out airstrikes in Syria and has deployed Himars surface-to-surface rockets in the northern part of the country. Before he left office, President Barack Obama approved the use of a small number of Apache attack helicopters, and they are expected to be part of the Raqqa operation, as well.
Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the head of the United States Central Command, told reporters on Thursday that he was open to asking for more conventional military units if they are needed.