WASHINGTON, D.C.—The United States is expected to deploy up to 200 special operation forces to combat the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, including some who will participate in ground combat operations, U.S. defense officials have said.
“While plans are still being developed, we don’t currently anticipate that this will number more than two hundred total individuals,” a U.S. defense official told Breitbart News.
The official did not specifically say what the U.S. troops’ mission will be and where they will be deployed.
“As we further develop plans for these limited forces, we will continue to work closely with our Iraqi partners on where they will be deployed, what kind of missions they will undertake, and how they will support Iraqi efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL,” proclaimed the official.
Nevertheless, Army Col. Steve Warren, the Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, told reporters Wednesday that the special forces will be engaging in ground combat operations.
“A raid is a combat operation, there’s no way around that,” he said. “So yeah, more Americans will be coming here to Iraq and some of them will be conducting raids inside of both Iraq and Syria.”
Col. Warren did note that only a “small number of highly skilled commandos” will take on the jihadists, adding that they will be helping to direct limited, but precise surgical airstrikes.
He added that the missions will be “exceptionally well-planned” and “very well-targeted.”
The number of commandos who will participate in ground combat operations to kill ISIS terrorists will be just in the double digits, noted the colonel, adding that the rest will provide mission support.
Currently, there are nearly 3,500 U.S. military service members in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the deployment while testifying before the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday.
The force is expected to be permanently based in Iraq, but it will also conduct ground combat raids against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, NBC News reported.
Carter told lawmakers that the “specialized expeditionary targeting force” would assist the Iraqi forces and Kurdish peshmerga troops fight ISIS.
“These special operators will, over time, be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture ISIL leaders,” he said.
The American special forces will also be able to intervene in neighboring northern Syria, where the United States previously announced it is deploying nearly 50 special operation troops in a non-combat role.
“This force will also be in a position to conduct unilateral operations into Syria,” declared Carter.
President Barack Obama vowed not to place American combat “boots on the ground” in Iraq or Syria.
“American special operators bring a unique suite of capabilities that make them force multipliers,” noted Carter, adding, “Where we find further opportunity to leverage such capability, we are prepared to expand it.”