White House spokesman Josh Earnest, during a press conference about a "shift" in U.S. strategy against Islamic State, said Friday that the Obama administration's strategy in Syria had not changed.
The U.S. is sending special operations forces into northern Syria, which will work with forces battling the terrorist organization after Obama previously said that he would not put boots on the ground in Syria:
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The special operations forces will work with groups who have been fighting the Islamic State (IS), which could include Kurdish forces and allied groups who fall under the title of "Syrian Democratic Forces."
The administration will label the decision a "shift" in the U.S. strategy against the terrorist group, not a "change."
The decision comes just days after Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the U.S. would engage in "direct action on the ground" on Iraq and Syria in order to combat IS. Earlier this month, the Obama administration ended its $500 million Syrian rebel training program to fight the Islamic State in an acknowledgement of its failure.
One reporter asked Earnest why Obama was not publicly speaking about the decision.
"Why aren't we hearing from him today?" she asked.
"You've heard the president on many occasions discuss our strategy in Syria, and the fact is our strategy in Syria hasn't changed," Earnest said. "The core of our military strategy inside of Syria is to build up the capacity of local forces to take the fight to ISIL on the ground in their own country. There are a variety of ways that the United States and our coalition partners can offer our support to those local forces whether it's resupplying them or conducting air strikes in support of their operations on the ground."
Earnest said Obama had decided to "intensify" that support by deploying a small number of forces for training and advising.
"This is an intensification of a strategy that the president announced more than a year ago, and he's discussed it with all of you on many occasions and I suspect he'll discuss it with all of you again in the future," Earnest said.