The United States will send special-operations troops to Iraq to aid in the fight against the Islamic State, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Tuesday.
Carter said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing that the Defense Department will deploy a “specialized” team to assist local troops fighting the Islamic State.
“In full coordination with the government of Iraq, we’re deploying a specialized expeditionary targeting force to assist Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces to put even more pressure on ISIL,” Carter said, using one of the acronyms for the group.
Kurdish fighters have been engaged in battle with Islamic State militants for months in Iraq and Syria. Earlier this month, the fighters, backed by U.S. airstrikes, reclaimed the northern Iraqi city of Sinjar from the Islamic State, which had seized it last August.
Carter said the team’s capabilities and operations will expand once it is on the ground.
“These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture ISIL leaders,” he said.
Carter said the team will eventually be able to “conduct unilateral operations” in Syria.
“That creates a virtuous cycle of better intelligence, which generates more targets, more raids, more momentum,” he said.