U.S. special operations forces in Syria do many things in the war against the Islamic State. They gather intelligence, build relationships with local communities, help spot targets for air strikes and train and advise local forces on the ground. One thing they cannot do, though, is enter into range of the enemy’s fire.
Four U.S. military officials told me that the 300 or so U.S. special operators in Syria are under very strict rules of engagement. Because such rules are highly classified, these sources have requested anonymity.
But the rules in place, known as “last cover and concealment,” are highly restrictive compared to special operations missions in the war on terror before 2014. Those rules of engagement allowed for U.S. special operators to fight alongside the local forces they trained.
The JV team needs all the help they can get.