The United States is set to deploy troops on the ground in Syria for the first time to advise and assist rebel forces combating ISIS, the White House said Friday. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that the U.S. would be deploying "less than 50" Special Operations forces, who will be sent to Kurdish-controlled territory in northern Syria. The American troops will help local Kurdish and Arab forces fighting ISIS with logistics and are planning to bolster their efforts. The deployment of U.S. Special Operations forces is the most significant escalation of the American military campaign against ISIS to date. The Special Ops troops will first be deployed to northern Syria to help coordinate local ground forces and U.S.-led coalition efforts to fight ISIS, the senior administration official said. The local forces in that area have been the most effective U.S. partners in confronting ISIS. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest rejected early criticism that the small Special Ops force would not be sufficient, noting that they are an "important force multiplier anywhere around the world they are deployed." "The President does expect that they can have an impact in intensifying our strategy for building the capacity of local forces inside of Syria for taking the fight on the ground to ISIL in their own country," Earnest said, using another acronym for ISIS. "That has been the core element of the military component of our strategy from the beginning: building the capacity of local forces on the ground."