The United States said on Tuesday it was deploying a new force of special operations troops to Iraq to conduct raids against Islamic State there and in neighboring Syria, in a ratcheting up of Washington's campaign against the group.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the deployment of the new "specialized expeditionary targeting force" was being carried out in coordination with Iraq's government and would aid Iraqi government security forces and Kurdish peshmerga forces.
"These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders," Carter told the U.S. 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."
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office issued a statement saying it welcomed foreign assistance but Iraq's government would need to approve any deployment of special operations forces anywhere in Iraq - a point Carter also acknowledged.
Abadi reiterated that foreign ground combat troops were not needed in Iraq, although it was unclear whether Baghdad viewed these special operations forces in that role.