With the US on the verge of withdrawing its combat troops from Iraq, the US is beginning to focus its efforts on a new battlefield — Syria.
On Thursday, the United States said it would deploy its first airstrikes in Syria to try to defeat Islamic State militants.
The new mission is a major escalation for the US, which has been conducting airstrikes on the militant group since 2014.
The air campaign against the group, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, began in March with the start of a two-week bombing campaign that has killed more than 1,000 Islamic State fighters.
The Syrian Democratic forces, which are led by the US-backed Kurdish militia, are trying to push Islamic State out of its last major stronghold in Syria and take the city of Raqqa, the self-declared capital of the group.
In addition to targeting Islamic State in Syria, the air campaign has been hitting Islamic State-controlled areas in Iraq, where the militants are entrenched.
Islamic State is now facing an array of forces in Iraq.
An offensive by Iraqi troops, backed by the United Nations and Iran, on Mosul, the group’s last major Iraqi city, was halted last month.
The US has been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria for weeks, but its first mission there was a US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft that crashed in the Mediterranean Sea, killing all nine people aboard.
At the time, the Pentagon said the crash was a result of an engine failure that occurred during a training mission.
The crash also sparked a national security crisis for President Donald Trump.
He ordered a new investigation and the Pentagon is now investigating.
After a review, Trump said he would “absolutely” consider returning U.S. combat troops to Iraq.
But he said the decision was premature.
“We’re going to have to see how it plays out,” Trump said in an interview with CBS on Wednesday.
But it’s a long way from Mosul.””
If we do that and if we do it properly, it’s going to work.
But it’s a long way from Mosul.”