By Phil Stewart and Yeganeh Torbati
The United States said on Tuesday it was deploying a new force of special operations troops to Iraq that will be able to conduct raids, free hostages, capture Islamic State leaders and carry out “unilateral operations” in Syria.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter offered few details on the new expeditionary group, which would be separate from a previously announced deployment of up to 50 US special operations forces in Syria to coordinate with US-backed rebels on the ground.
Carter said the new deployment of what he called a “specialized expeditionary targeting force” was being carried out in coordination with the government of Iraq and would aid Iraqi government security forces and Kurdish peshmerga forces.
It was not immediately clear how many US special operations troops forces would be deployed.
“These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture ISIL leaders,” Carter told the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, using an acronym for Islamic State.
“This force will also be in a position to conduct unilateral operations into Syria.”
Carter did not say where the force would be based. A US defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it would be located in Iraq.