overnight. but i am convinced that the steps that we worked on today if followed up on, if worked on in good faith, can begin to move us in the right direction. and it's our job to accelerate the momentum so that we're not back here next year, or even the year after facing a middle east with even more refugees, with even greater numbers of dead and displaced and even more suffering and more eroding hope. the time has come to stop the building -- stop the bleeding and start the building, and that's exactly what we have set out to do. and i thank stephon and i thank sergei for the efforts to at least try to open a new chapter. >> i'll speak in russian for the benefit of the russian media.
>> okay. that is the russian french foreign minister sergei lavrov. he is speaking in russian at the moment. when he goes back to english, we'll dip back in. i want to bring in al jazeera's national security contributor. we just got a lot of developments on syria in the last 20 minutes, doug. let's begin with the announcement that president obama has authorized fewer than 50 special operations troops in syria. a lot of pushback from the media in the white house press room asking whether these are indeed combat troops or at least equivalent to. >> i think we'll see a lot of playing gotcha on boots on the ground. we're already seeing the president's prior statements being brought up, and whether this is or is not combat. i think that .hides the fact
that's troops are going to be there on the ground in syria, and this was change our commitment to what is going on. we can have discussions about what is combat and what is not. and quite frankly it depends on the role these troops decide to play, if the bulk of them are back at the headquarters and helping to call in air strikes that's one thing. if we are going forward with these troops, that presents an entirely different set of dangers. so we may learn more about that as this unfolds. but josh earnst was pretty honest about the fact that there is a significant amount of risk these troops will be assuming. my take has always been if someone is shooting at me it's combat. regardless of what we call it, it is very dangerous. >> it does matter, doesn't it? in terms of what authorization the president has.
it will be interesting to hear what sergei lavrov has to say about these troops. the russians have been invited by the assad government to be in syria, and the u.s. has not. >> that is a difficulty. the russians have been asking you whether is your invitation or your u.n. chapter authorization. so that will play out over the coming days and weeks i suspect. >> i want to go to some of these diplomatic developments. we heard secretary kerry say what makes this round of talks different than what we saw in 2012, for example, when the ga nia communique come out, is all of the stakeholders on both sides were at the stable. did you hear anything else
substantively that will move this forward? >> no, but finally we have everyone in the room who really plays. the opposition really has to listen to what saudi arabia and turkey and the united states have to say. and the regime really has to listen to what iran and russia have to say. and quite frankly if those five external plowers were to agree on something, they could probably impose it on the two sides. so i think it's important that we have all of the players in the room. only their opinions, equities, and takes on the situation are very different, and i think it's unlikely we're going to see consensus any time soon. >> we heard secretary kerry at the beginning of his message saying that they should not get bogged down on this issue of
whether assad could or should remain in power. we know that is the big dividing point, and the u.s. wanting assad out. kerry saying there is no way that assad can unite and govern syria. but without that question being addressed can anything really move forward. i don't know that russia or iran would be able to force assad to step down, could they? >> they probably could. but there may be some mechanism to make this happen. if you were to hold an election in fairly short order, and if that election were nationally supervised so there was not a finger on the scales by the current government, then presumably assad would not win that. so there may be some ways around this in the fairly near future. >> doug, do we have al jazeera's jamie mcintyre with us? doug standing by for me. do we have jamie mcintyre with us now. jamie good to see you.
i want you to unpack this issue of the special forces going into to syria. >> it is very similar to what we saw when the special forces were assisting the kurdish forces. they are based in erbil, iraq, right now. and some of these troops will now begin working from their base in erbil, going into syria, for days, perhaps weeks at a time, to advice the -- what the pentagon has identified as what they call the syrian arab coalition. and that is basically a loose group of groups that the u.s. has been working with, members about 5,000, mostly in northern iraq around raqqa where isil has its de facto capitol. and they are the group that the
united states dropped 50 tons of -- ammunition and arms to last week. and mostly what they will be doing is advising and assisting, but they are also be accompa accompanying the troops occasionally on joint missions like we saw last week, so that means, yes, they will be in a line of fire, in a direct combat role occasionally, but their main mission is to enable the local forces, particularly since the united states has now armed them with more fire power, and they are hoping they can keep pressure on the forces in raqqa. the strategy is to keep the isil forces pinned down there so they can't cause problems in other parts, that's basically what the mission is. >> and just to be clear, jamie when the talk about that mission
in iraq, a master sergeant lost his life by small arms fire when the u.s. forcesened up being involved in the direct fighting with these isil militants regarding the prison. so the mission we're talking about, again, in syria is train, assist and support, but at the end of the day, it could end up being engagement in direct combat. >> absolutely. the white house said it could be more joint raids. the strategy is for those u.s. troops to hang back. and not lead the charge and take the hill, but if the local forces are in trouble, they are need u.s. help, that could draw the u.s. forces right back into a direct combat role exchanging
syria. i want to go to mike viqueira, our senior white house correspondent out there. mike unpack some of what we heard from the white house press secretary on what these troops will be doing. >> right, whether it is combat or it isn't combat, yes, it's sort of a rhetorical exercise, but this is an admission that part of the strategy has been unsuccessful. the white house has been forced to admit its policy of training forces in a third country has largely been a failure. they have also admitted have top brass and administration officials, that the fight against isil is at a stand still at this point, notwithstanding the more than year-long air campaign to strike at their targets. and fascinating to see john kerry standing alongside sergei lavrov after russia has been
carrying out an air campaign of its own, at odds with what the united states is doing. because the activity is designed to bolster at least in the short-term, the strength of bashar al-assad, and hitting back on those fighters supported by the cia. i want to mention one other thing, secretary kerry making the explicit link between this anticipated counter daesh campaign, the counter isil campaign, and enhancing the diplomatic effort. josh earnst saying is is fewer than 50 commandos that will be spending time in syria, and he weighed in repeatedly on what
exactly their role will be and how we're going to define it. >> our strategy in syria hasn't changed. the core is to build up the capacity of local forces and take the fight to isil on the ground within their own country. there are ways to offer support whether it's resupplying them or conducting air strike, and the president did make a decision to intentionfy that support by offering a small number of military personnel to offer them some advice and assistance on the ground. >> reporter: regardless of come being a rhetorical distinction or not. it doesn't take a lot of tea leaf reading to see they don't want to characterize it as such. the 2003 decision by president
bush to invade iraq that was cam bat, he said. this isn't combat. this is a very sensitive topic here at the white house, of course president obama with his legacy of removing troops not getting back in. that's something he has had to do twice now. >> mike viqueira at the white house for us. thank you. i want to bring back in jamie mcintyre who has been reporting on this from the pentagon. jamie as you said a few moments ago. we believe these special operations forces are coming from erbil in the kurdish area of iraq. what can you tell us about the risks they face? we know that they are going to be in northern syria. we don't think that this is at the behest of the assad government. we know the russians have been conducting air strikes there, and that the syrian air force continues to conduct air strikes. so is that a risk for our troops
on the ground? >> that's a very interesting question, and i'll be interested to see how the pentagon answers this later today. the potential risk from russian air strikes in syria with u.s. troops on the ground. but for now the pentagon would say russia and the united states are operating in completely different areas of syria. this memorandum of understanding to make sure they can operate safely together has been barely needed because the u.s. has been attacking in the north, and the russians imarily, according to the pentagon, have been attacki attacking government opposition rebels to the west. if that continues the u.s. troops would face little threat from the air, but you can bet that when the u.s. sends special force commanders into syria,
they will plan to protect them. and it announced the deployment of a-10 attack planes, these are the ground attack planes that have the close air support role, along with additional f-15s to the nato air base in turkey. that's part of that stepped up campaign. so there is a risk that something could happen. they are -- if they are in a war zone in some risk, and as i said, there is no longer this prohibition against them accompanying forces into the field, so thigh could also be on deadly, dangerous raids as well. so this represents as the white house said an intensification of the strategy of enabling local forces on the ground, and it does put u.s. forces in harm's way potentially. >> jamie we do know the foreign minister sergei lavrov of russia has been speaking today with
secretary of state john kerry, and they are taking questions right now at a press conference in vienna. they met today about a diplomatic solution to the syrian war. let's listen in. >> -- it drives people to assad. or drives them out of the country. so to the degree that question join together with everybody who is united in an effort to end the reign of terny -- it's not a reign -- but this tierney that is purpose operated by daesh, to whatever degree that is diminished and people see there is a better alternative, which is this political process, versus what they have, that's a better choice in our judgment. and we think that will help the process. secondly, to whatever degree we show our bona fideys into
helping destroy daesh, that will help build good faith to a solution. >> translator: did not say that assad has to go. or that assad has to stay. i said that assad's destiny should be decided by the syrian people. as well as all other aspects of further development of the syrian state. as for the certain concerns about the fact that russian air forces are striking some groups supported by the u.s. are
terrorists or not terrorists, from the very beginning, i would like to say and highlight here that we are conducting this operation on the request of the syrian government, and we ask the u.s. to arrange our cooperation in that area. right now we're at the point where our u.s. colleagues agreed only to create a mechanism of consultation. but we're sure that more can be done, and we can more effectively fight terrorism.
and i believe -- i hope that the agreement that we have today to create a list of terrorist organizations would also help that. i have already talked about our evaluation of president obama's decision to unilaterally introduce some ground contingency so to speak to fight isis. i believe that neither the u.s. nor russia want to go back to the so-called proxy war.
e but the fact that this situation makes the cooperation between the militaries ever more important is very apparent to me. we have a common enemy, and we need to make sure this endmy does not come to power in syria or any other country. >> next question will be -- >> hello? i just want to add one thing, quickly, because i think it's important to the fabric of this. we have succeeded in -- in doing sort of a minimal and most important level of preventing conflict in the operations between our militaries.
and minister lavrov is correct that there has been a request to try to do more, and we clearly want to be responsible about the effort with respect to isil, daesh, and so we discussed today how it might be possible to be able to do more, and one of those ingredients is this cooperation with respect to the political track, which can open up the horizon, perhaps, but we have some ideas, which we discussed today that i'm taking back to washington. they would need the president's approval. so i will keep them to myself until i pass them on to the president, but i'm confident the president wants to make certain that we are maximizing our effort against the terrorists as well as maximizing our effort to bring peace through a political track. >> despite their differences,
secretary john kerry and russian foreign minister sergei lavrov finding common cause in saying that they are both fighting isil. i want to go back to white house correspondent mike viqueira live at the white house. it does appear some progress was made at the talks in vienna. >> reporter: if nothing else the fact that they did sit down and talk about the situation in syria. obviously very different agendas as far as the ongoing civil war is concerned. perhaps most significant announcing the fact -- did secretary kerry with sergei lavrov at his side -- is that they are going to gear themselves towards having free and fair elections within syria at some point, and that syria -- this is part of the objections will not be partitioned, will remain a united state when all is said
and done. >> thank you, mike. let's go to our al jazeera national security contributor and senior fellow at the new american foundation. we have heard a lot of developments in the last couple of hours, developments diplomatically, and militarily. do you view this as a turning point? >> i think what we saw today was incremental change. but sometimes increments can make a big difference, and i think in both cases we saw the administration at least relax or allow a new interpretation of a new red line putting what looks like boots on the ground in syria, and in vienna allowing the iranians to come to the table. when things aren't working, let's try something different, we're going to put a small group of advisors in syria, and talk to the iranians. >> i want to go back out to
jamie mcintyre who has been covering the military intensification, that is what the press secretary called it several times, an intensification of the military element of the strategy in syria. there are dozens of special operations forces that will be heading into syria, one of the most volatile war zones on the planet. 250,000 people dead, what do the american people need to know as far as justification for sending these special ops forces in? >> the pentagon has been saying for more than a week ever since that operation in which u.s. commandos accomplished the kurdish peshmerga and one u.s. commander was killed, that there will be more of that. these will be the same troops based in erbil who will now move into syria to help the friendly
forces in northern syria. it is not boots in the ground, but it is boots in different ground, syria, and putting those troops in a much more risky situation, but the white house and pentagon argue that that has worked in the past and it is one of the things that they would like to leverage to try to put more pressure on isil. >> i want to get your opinion on this, jamie, because the cia and special operations forces generally work very closely together. we know there is a cia operation that is partly to train and equipment moderate syrian fighters as well, and these special operations forces have operated in syria earlier this year. they called an isil leader and captured his wife. so why are we hearing this big announcement now? >> well, that was a u.s.-only mission and a very successful
mission, lots of intelligence gathered from that compound in syria, but that was u.s. commandos in and out quickly. this is where the u.s. troops will be going in working with local forces sometimes going with them on raids, and it's a much different thing when the united states is operating alone, and when it is operating with partners on the ground. >> all right. jamie mcintyre reporting to us from the pentagon. you have been watching our special coverage of developments in syria. the obama administration saying dozens of special forces will be heading to syria. thanks for joining us. i'm stephanie sy.
foreign ministers from 19 countries have met in vienna for top level talks to resolve the civil war in syria. she say a number of agreements have been reached. well, the talks come as more than 60 people are killed and dozens wounded in a syrian government missile attack on a crowded market. at least 30 refugees including 11 children drown as more boats sink off