Defense Secretary Ash Carter says the U.S. will step up its operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, including through “direct action on the ground.”
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carter said the changed policy against the Islamic State would focus on what he called the three Rs: Raqqa, Ramadi, and raids.
He said the U.S. will support moderate Syrian rebels who have made territorial gains near the Raqqa, the Islamic State’s stronghold and administrative capital. In the Iraqi city of Ramadi, meanwhile, he said, the Iraqi government has worked with the local Sunni community to retake ground from the Islamic State and will move north toward the city of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city that is held by the group. Outlining the strategy on raids, the third R, Carter said:
We won’t hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL, or conducting such missions directly whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground.
ISIL is another name for the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS.
The comments appear to signal acknowledgment by the Obama administration that its strategy against the Islamic State has had limited success. Last month, General Lloyd Austin, the head of U.S. Central Command, said the $500 million American effort to train 5,400 troops had resulted in some “four or five” fighters still in the field. Carter announced this month the U.S. was looking at other ways to train support the rebels.