Washington: The White House on Friday confirmed that the United States will send less than 50 Special Operations troops to northern Syria to act as military advisers and help local forces fight the Islamic State (IS), Xinhua reported.
“There — the less than 50 number is accurate. I cannot be more specific than that, primarily for reasons related to Operational Security,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in response to questions about the US plan widely reported in the US media.
Those US troops “do not have a combat mission” and their major task is to build capacity of local moderate opposition forces fighting the IS militants by offering some training and advising, the spokesman said.
He stressed that despite the plan to deploy US troops on the ground in Syria for the first time, the US strategy in fighting the IS in Syria has not changed.
“The first is, you have heard the President (Obama) on many occasions discussed our strategy in Syria. And the fact is, our strategy in Syria has not changed,” Earnest said.
This will be the first time that US troops are deployed on the ground in Syria, where large swaths of territory have been controlled by the IS.
The partial shutdown of the US federal government has had a serious impact on the country’s space agency NASA and development work on most future space missions has been slowed or suspended.
However, NASA has not been totally grounded by the partial government shutdown that began on December 22, after last-minute negotiations in Congress failed to end a budget standoff.
Over 95 per cent of the space agency’s employees have been furloughed. As a result, various research projects, including the Hubble Space Telescope has been put on hold, the Space.com reported on Wednesday.
Hubble suffered a mechanical problem that only furloughed NASA employees could repair.
Many workers also gathered outside the Johnson Space Center in Houston to protest the shutdown and its deleterious effects on their lives and the nation’s space programmes.
The Telescope facilities that have so far remained open during the shutdown will soon run out of money and cease operations.
This includes the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), a federally funded organization that operates the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the Green Bank Telescope and the Very Large Array (VLA), the report noted.
The partial shutdown become the longest on record after January 12, overtaking the previous record of the 21-day impasse in 1995-96 under then President Bill Clinton.
President Donald Trump and the Congress have been at loggerheads over his demand to include in the budget $5.7 billion funding for building a border wall along the Mexico border. Democratic leaders have rejected his call.
NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), also called the “flying telescope” has also ceased operations since the shutdown.
The telescope, which is mounted to the fuselage of a Boeing 747 aircraft, has not flown since the shutdown began, the report said.
However, despite the shutdown some “excepted” employees remained at work, assisting astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and other space missions, the report said.
Last week, astronauts aboard the ISS conducted a range of scientific experiments and public-outreach work. They engaged in an orbital Q&A with school kids and answered a variety of questions, from the nature of the research performed aboard the ISS to the type of training astronauts receive to whether your ears pop in space.
On January 13, a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule departed the orbiting lab for Earth, eventually splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. The robotic Dragon brought down important scientific research and hardware for examination here on terra firma.
Other active space missions includes NASA probes OSIRIS-REx and New Horizons spacecraft that continue to gather data in Earth orbit and the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and beyond, the report said. (IANS)