United States Defence Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday that a new US special operations force has arrived in Iraq and is preparing to fight DAESH with Iraqi forces.
“The specialised expeditionary targeting force I announced in December is now in place and is preparing to work with the Iraqis to begin going after DAESH fighters and commanders, killing or capturing them wherever we find them, along with other key targets,” said Carter as he briefed, soon to be deployed, service members in Campbell, Kentucky.
The deployment, some 12,000km away from home, marks the latest expansion of US military pressure on DAESH and exposes American forces to greater risks.
Last year up to 50 US special operations troops were deployed into Syria to counterpart on the ground with forces in the north, including the Kurdish rebel Kurdistan Union Party (PYD), Turkmens and Syrian Arabs.
Carter said that new targets have been established for “strikes of all kinds” and a smaller group of forces are in coordination with rebels.
He noted his meeting next week in Paris with France, Australia, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and the United Kingdom to discuss the fight against the militants.
As DAESH terrorists plot attacks far beyond their self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, Obama’s strategy to defeat DAESH has sought to be insufficient according to Republicans.
Carter’s optimistic assessment emphasised advances that include retaking control of the city of Ramadi and focused on efforts to “collapse” power centres in Raqqah, Syria and Mosul, Iraq.
Troops would conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture DAESH leaders, he said.
An anti-DAESH coalition spokesman later said the forces would not exceed 100 troops.
The US defence secretary was criticised last year for an air strike against Mosul that killed at least 12 civilians in December.