More US Boots to Middle East. Special Ops to Invade Syria; Iraq Says They Don't Want US Troops
December 2, 2015
NBC News & AntiWar.com & Reuters
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday the US military will deploy a specialized expeditionary targeting force to Iraq to launch unilateral raids inside Syria to "put even more pressure" on ISIS. Iraq, which was apparently not consulted, complained about the US move. Iraq's Prime Minister Hayder Abadi warned that Iraq does not need any foreign ground troops and warned the US to respect Iraqi sovereignty in the matter.
Defense Secretary Carter: Special Ops Force to Iraq to Fight ISIS
Jim Miklaszewski, Courtney Kube and Corky Siemaszko / NBC Nightly News
Ash Carter: US to Deploy Specialized Expeditionary Force to Fight ISIS 0:38
WASHINGTON (December 1, 2015) -- Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Tuesday the US military will deploy a specialized expeditionary targeting force to Iraq to launch unilateral raids and "put even more pressure" on ISIS.
US special operation forces will conduct operations in Iraq "at the invitation of the Iraqi government" and be in position "to conduct unilateral operations into Syria," Carter said.
"We're at war. We're using the might of the finest fighting force the world has ever known," Carter told the House Armed Services Committee. "Tens of thousands of US personnel are operating in the broader Middle East region,and more are on the way. "
While Carter did not divulge much about the special ops forces that will be battling ISIS, DOD officials have told NBC News that the expeditionary targeting force would be permanently based in Iraq. According to the officials, the force would be comprised of 100 to 150 special operations forces that would conduct ground combat raids against ISIS targets in both Iraq and Syria.
The objective would be to gather intelligence, free hostages or prisoners and kill or capture ISIS leaders. In between combat operations the American commandos would assist and could accompany Iraqi and Kurdish forces on their military operations against ISIS targets. No timetable was given on when the special operations forces will begin to arrive in Iraq.
The US will consult with the Iraqi government, but there may be times when they don't give Baghdad advance notice that an operation is underway. One official also pointed out that when talking about coordination with Iraqi forces "that also includes the Kurds."
The officials stressed the operations would not involve "large numbers of forces" and be limited to smaller special operations expeditionary units.
Whatever the number, one senior official told NBC News, "this cracks open the door" for US combat operations in Iraq and Syria.
US to Deploy Special Operations Forces in Syria: Officials
The special ops missions would be along the lines of the October raid in northern Iraqi where they helped Kurdish fighters free 70 prisoners being held by ISIS, senior defense officials interviewed by NBC News said. One US Special Operations commando was killed in that raid.
At the time, Carter openly acknowledged that the ground forces had been involved in combat operations and there would be more such raids.
The 50 special operations forces that the president and Pentagon previously announced were headed for northeastern Syria, will not be directly involved in ground combat operations. Their job is to assist and advise mostly Kurdish forces in their combat ops against ISIS targets in Syria and will be "semi-permanently" located at a Kurdish military operations center at what is presumed to be a safe distance from any ground combat with Syria.
Defense officials said the number of special operations forces and where they will be deployed in Iraq has yet to be determined.
Calling the recent bloody terror attack on Paris an "assault on the civilization we defend," Carter vowed ISIS would be destroyed. "We are acting to defeat ISIL at its core," said Carter, using the government's acronym for ISIS.
Carter discussed strategy and noted that US-backed Kurdish forces had recently retaken the strategic town of Sinjar and cut off ISIS's "main line of communication" between Raqqa, Syria and Mosul, Iraq, which are the two biggest cities still under their control.
Before Carter went before lawmakers, Obama in Paris defended his administration's strategy against ISIS. President Obama was harshly criticized for claiming that ISIS was "contained" shortly before the deadly Paris terrorist attacks.
At Tuesday's House hearing, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said "We have not contained" ISIS. The Obama administration has faced criticism for its ISIS strategy, especially from Republican lawmakers who have called for a more hawkish approach to crushing the murderous militant group.
Lawmakers, US Officials Squabble Over Definition of 'War' on ISIS 1:58
Skeptical Republicans pushed Carter to respond to allegations they are being given a "rosy picture" of how well the fight is going against ISIS.
"The territory under ISIL's control has shrunk, that is a fact," Carter said, noting that Kurds are now controlling those areas in Iraq and Syria. "That's not a declaration of victory."
Pressed to say if they were winning, Carter said, "We're going to win."
What's Behind US Mission 'Shift' Into Syria?
Iraqi PM, Militias Reject Latest US Troop Deployments
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(December 1, 2015) -- Defense Secretary Ash Carter's announcement of new deployments of US Special Forces into Iraq, despite coming with some talk of limiting operations inside Iraq to those done "at the invitation of" the Iraqi government, appears to have come without even mentioning it to the Iraqi government beforehand.
Prime Minister Hayder Abadi warned that Iraq, as it has insisted repeatedly before, welcomes air support against ISIS but does not need any foreign ground troops, and warned the US to respect Iraqi sovereignty in the matter.
That's a relatively modest reaction compared to those of some of the more powerful Shi'ite militias involved in the war against ISIS, who say they intend to shift their fight to directly focus on US ground troops if these new deployments are carried out.
Statements came from Qatib Hezbollah, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and the Badr Brigade, all of whom noted that they distrust US intentions after the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. The US at times fought various different militias during the occupation.
How serious the Shi'ite militias' threats are is unclear, as they've talked up going after US ground troops after previously announced deployments and so far haven't, but it does reflect the continuing discomfort in Iraq, both among the government and its allies, for US escalation.
The US has so far gotten away with these escalations by keeping them small, but even this new deployment is coming with officials talking up the idea that this is just the first of many new deployments into the region aimed at combat.
PM Abadi Says Iraq Does Not Need Foreign Ground Troops
Stephen Kalin / Reuters
BAGHDAD (December 1, 2015) - Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday his country did not need foreign ground troops, after the United States said it was sending an elite special unit to help combat Islamic State.
"The Iraqi government stresses that any military operation or the deployment of any foreign forces - special or not - in any place in Iraq cannot happen without its approval and coordination and full respect of Iraqi sovereignty," Abadi said in a statement.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.