France deploys special forces to Syria to back rebels

France deploys special forces to Syria to back rebels

France on Thursday confirmed that it has sent special forces to Syria to help rebels recapture the militant-held city of Manbij, north of the country.
2 min read
10 June, 2016
There are around 100 French special forces embedded with the SDF [Getty]

France has deployed special forces in northern Syria to advise the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF] fighting the Islamic State group [IS].

A French official said on Thursday that special forces are offering training and advice to the SDF fighters, trying to liberate the IS-held city of Manbij in northern Syria.

"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 defence ministry official said without giving further details on the deployment.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the French troops were helping with arms, aerial support and logistics.

France until now has only acknowledged the presence in the region of around 150 members of its special forces, deployed in Iraqi Kurdistan.

The SDF, a US-backed Kurdish and Arab alliance, are on the northern edge of Manbij, a strategic town held by IS that serves as a waypoint between the Turkish border and the militants' stronghold of Raqqa.

The French special forces will not intervene militarily themselves and are not supposed to engage in combat with IS militants, the defence ministry official said.

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Local journalist Hussein al-Munhadir confirmed to The New Arab that there are around 100 French special forces deployed near Manbij along with the 300 US special operations forces embedded with the SDF.

Munhadir said that the French troops are using the city of Kobane on the Turkish border as their headquarters.

France has 2,500 men in its special forces, of whom around 400 are currently deployed in 17 countries, mainly in the Sahel.

The US military says the offensive on Manbij is being led by 3,000 local Arab fighters, backed by 500 Kurdish militiamen.

On Thursday, 130 IS fighters were killed in the US-backed offensive to recapture Manbij.

Agencies contributed to this report.