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More US boots on the ground: Obama authorizes special ops to fight ISIS

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Michael Wyke/Tulsa World via AP

(Read caption) Zack Wheeler, brother of Joshua Wheeler, gets condolences from Sequoyah Co. deputy Thomas Stafford outside the Trinity United Methodist Church in Muldrow, Okla., where a service was held for Joshua by family and friends, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. Joshua Wheeler was killed in Iraq during a raid against ISIS targets. Held was buried at Arlington National Cemetary in Washington D.C.

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President Obama’s policy on sending troops into Syria has always been a defiant “no.”

Until last month, that is, when Obama ordered several dozen Special Operations troops into Syria to help train Kurdish fighters against the Islamic State. 

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In the wake of the Paris attacks, Hillary Clinton delivered a speech in New York last week where she spoke for an hour but her message was short: “The time for delay is over. We should get this done.” Clinton urged Congress to take stronger military action against the Islamic State. 

Obama famously called the Paris attacks an “act against humanity” and offered France air support and military intelligence. But speaking at the G20 Summit, Obama refused to send more troops into Syria, saying that boots on the ground “would be a mistake.”

Until now. 

In a statement on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the United States would be deploying a second round of Special Operations troops to Iraq to conduct raids, free hostages, and capture Islamic State leaders. The size of the force remains unannounced, but according to Carter it will be larger than the group in Syria. The US team will be working with the Iraqi government and security forces, as well as Kurdish peshmerga forces says the Pentagon chief.

The Iraqi operation will be conducted unilaterally with the Syria operation and seems to be part of a larger, more aggressive strategy from the US to take down the Islamic State. 

In the weeks following the Paris attacks that killed 130 people in France on November 13th, many Western leaders have been under extreme pressure to accelerate what has become a US-led coalition effort in Syria. Obama has come under heavy criticism, especially from Congressional Republicans, who say he is moving too slowly.

Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham called last week to triple the effort, that is, to send 20,000 troops into Syria immediately.

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"The question ... is being asked all over the capitals of the West right now," Mr. McCain told Reuters. "(Arab) countries for a long time have not seen what's happening as a direct threat to them. Now I believe that they do.”

Sending a new team into Iraq is a major step towards the acceleration process. The move, according to top US military officer Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, “will make our operations much more effective.”