France has confirmed that it has deployed its special forces on the ground in northern Syria
A French Defense Ministry official said that they were there advise Syrian rebels in their fight against ISIS: “The offensive at Manbij is clearly being backed by a certain number of states including France. It’s the usual support – it’s advisory”
The French special forces will not intervene militarily themselves and are not supposed to engage in combat with ISIS militants, the ministry official added.
RT reports: Until now, France admitted the presence of some 150 special forces in the region, all of them in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Manbij is a key strategic town under Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) control in northern Syria. It’s a waypoint between the Turkish border and the IS-held Raqqa.
The latest comment isn’t the first hint at France’s presence in Syria: last Friday, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the Public Senat TV channel that Paris was “providing support through weapons supplies, air presence and advice.”
France isn’t the only Western country in Syria: about two weeks ago, footage emerged of US special forces fighting alongside Kurdish militia near the city of Raqqa, a month after Obama said some 250 troops would be deployed in the region.
Russia wrapped up its mission in Syria in mid-March, when it withdrew the “main part” of its troops from the country.
However, it continues to help Syrian government forces in their fight against IS and maintains a reconciliation center at the Khmeimim airbase.
British special forces have also crossed into southern Syria reportedly to support the New Syrian Army (NSA) rebel group fighting ISIS close to the border with Jordan.