(CNN) – Just days before leaving office, President Barack Obama is trying to make his final push to drive out ISIS by sending more than 200 additional U.S. Troops to Syria. As President-elect Donald Trump transitions into office, the big question is: Will he seize what appears to be momentum against ISIS on the battlefield?
U.S. backed fighters near Raqqa, Syria, preparing to attack, hoping to drive ISIS out. CNN cannot independently verify this new video. Getting to Raqqa has been a top U.S. military priority.
Now Donald Trump is inheriting an ISIS war that just got even more dangerous for U.S. troops since his tough campaign talk. “We’ve got to get rid of ISIS. Quickly. Quickly.”
The first of 200 additional U.S. troops authorized by President Obama to go into northern Syria will begin moving in and out of the area in the coming days, a U.S. official tells CNN.
But the region is so perilous American troops will stay only for a few days at a time. Training local forces no longer a main focus. U.S. troops have orders to help Turkish and Kurdish troops–who are close to outright war between themselves, focus on ISIS.
The pentagon is concerned as the Turks approach the town of Al Bab they fight Kurds instead of ISIS and may turn towards Manbij, a hard fought victory for the U.S. backed forces. It is Raqqa to the south that the U.S. wants everyone to head for. The Turks wants U.S. support, even airstrikes, the U.S. ground forces could call those strikes in for Turkish President Erdogan.
One U.S. official tells CNN the U.S. troops “will not initiate combat but may well find themselves in a combat situation.” The pentagon believes the risk is vital to stop future ISIS attacks in the west.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force said, “We know that central to external operations plotting is the city of Raqqa. And that’s why we need to get down there and isolate that city as fast as we can.”
U.S. officials say there are specific buildings in Raqqa where they believe top ISIS operatives may be hiding. U.S. drones and communications intercepts are gathering intelligence on those targets, waiting to strike them when civilians are not there. The big unknown: will Trump hand over the Raqqa fight to Russia and the Syrian regime.
Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, CNN military analyst said, “If you pull completely out you watch focus drift away from defeating ISIS and recapturing Raqqa and eliminating the terrorist threat that emanates from that city.”
A senior military official told CNN as many as 50 thousand ISIS fighters have been killed since the war against the terror group began.