SPECIAL OPERATIONS: U.S. to Deploy More Special Ops in Fight Against ISIS

December 1, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

Expeditionary Targeting Force.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, foreground, and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify before the House Armed Services Committee about U.S. strategy for Syria and Iraq. (Defense Dept. photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, foreground, and Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testify before the House Armed Services Committee about U.S. strategy for Syria and Iraq.
(Defense Dept. photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

The Obama administration is sending more Special Operations Forces (SOF) to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a congressional hearing Tuesday (December 1) that the Pentagon was deploying “a specialized expeditionary targeting force to assist” Iraqi and Kurdish forces and put “even more pressure” on the leadership of the so-called Islamic State — also known as ISIS and ISIL (for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).

Eventually, Carter said, special operators will be able to “conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders.”

Carter did not detail how many SOF troops would be sent to the region or where they would be deployed. But Pentagon officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to several news organizations, said this new force was expected to be based in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish-controlled region of Iraq. The number of SOF operators could be between 150 and 200, it was reported by USA Today, the Washington Post and Reuters.

President Obama has already sent 3,500 troops to Iraq and the surrounding region to advise and support — but not fight alongside —  Iraqis, Kurds and moderate Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime. In October Obama authorized the deployment of  50 special ops troops to advise and train Arab and Kurdish anti-ISIS fighters in Syria.

Before that, Obama was — and remains — reluctant to commit U.S. ground forces to fight ISIS, preferring to rely on U.S. led airstrikes on ISIS targets in support of Kurds, Iraqis and Syrians fighting the Islamist terror organization, which has captured chunks of Iraq and Syria.

Map and data courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War.

Map and data courtesy of the Institute for the Study of War. (Click to enlarge)

Carter told the House Armed Services Committee the the air campaign has intensified against ISIS’s main revenue stream: oil exports. Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  also at the hearing, said the air attacks had disrupted 43 percent of ISIS oil production. But under sometimes testy questioning, Dunford conceded that “we have not contained” ISIS.

“We are at war,” Carter told the hearing, adding that he meant “this is a serious business … it has that kind of gravity.” ISIS has claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian jetliner over Egypt, killing all 224 people on board, and a string of attacks in Paris last month that left 130 dead.

Carter said  the new SOF presence in Iraq will raise uncertainty among ISIS leaders. “It puts everybody on notice in Syria. You don’t know at night who’s coming through the window,” he added.

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Entry filed under: Counter Terrorism, National Security and Defense, News Developments, Skills and Training, Special Operations, Syria, Unconventional Warfare, Washington. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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