This story originally appeared on ABC News:
Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Congress on Tuesday that the U.S. would establish a special operations “targeting force” in Iraq as part of the intensified military effort to fight ISIS.
The special operations force would conduct raids, could free hostages held by ISIS, gather intelligence and capture ISIS leaders.
It is part of the broader role for U.S. special operations forces that Carter said would occur in the wake of the raid in late October where U.S. special operations forces helped free 70 ISIS hostages in northern Iraq. That same raid resulted in the death of Master Sergeant Joshua L. Wheeler, the first American fatality from combat in Iraq since the return of U.S. forces to that country in mid-2014.
Carter said the force would “also be in a position to conduct unilateral operations into Syria.” Over the past year, U.S. special operations forces have already conducted two targeted raids into Syria.
The force’s operations in Syria would be separate from the scheduled deployment of up to 50 special operations forces that will soon be deployed to northeastern Syria. In October, the Pentagon announced that it would send up to 50 special operations forces there to work with the Syrian Arab Coalition, a force of 5,000 Arab rebels that has been fighting ISIS.
Carter told the House Armed Services Committee today that “we’re deploying a specialized expeditionary targeting force to assist Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces and to put even more pressure on ISIL.”
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