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US Now Has Special 'Targeting Force' Inside Iraq - Pentagon

© AFP 2023 / ALI AL-SAADIUS troops stand to attention in front of American and Iraqi (R) flags during a handover ceremony near the northern Iraqi town of Hawija
US troops stand to attention in front of American and Iraqi (R) flags during a handover ceremony near the northern Iraqi town of Hawija - Sputnik International
Marking the latest expansion of the US military presence in the Middle East, the Pentagon announced Wednesday that special operations have commenced on the ground in Iraq.

Last month, Colonel Steve Warren, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters that the Pentagon planned to deploy more troops to Iraq as part of a specialized expeditionary force targeting Daesh, also known as IS/Islamic State.

Iraq forces supported by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes advance their position during clashes with Islamic State group in the western suburbs of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province. - Sputnik International
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"It will be probably around 100, maybe a little less," he said.

A number of Iraqi lawmakers expressed opposition to the plan. In a statement, Khalaf Abd Samad said that "we completely reject the deployment of US forces in Iraq to carry out military and intelligence operations."

That opposition appears to have been ignored. On Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that the new forces arrived in Iraq, and are preparing to work alongside Iraqi forces to combat Daesh.

"The specialized expeditionary targeting force I announced in December is now in place and is preparing to work with the Iraqis to begin going after ISIL’s fighters and commanders," he told reporters.

Carter stated that this contingency is separate from a group of 50 special operations troops deployed to Syria last year. He also said that smaller forces had already made contact with rebel groups in the area to coordinate “strikes of all kinds” against Daesh.

A US soldier walks at the Taji base complex which hosts Iraqi and US troops and is located thirty kilometres north of the capital Baghdad - Sputnik International
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"These operators have helped focus the efforts of the local, capable forces against key ISIL vulnerabilities, including their lines of communication."

"President Obama is committed to doing what it takes – as opportunities arise, as we see what works, and as the enemy adapts – until ISIL is delivered a lasting defeat."

The announcement goes against the Obama administration’s pledge to not place any additional "boots on the ground" in the Middle East, as well as his stated goal of withdrawing from Iraq.

During the president’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, Obama applauded US efforts to defeat terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

"With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we are taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, and their weapons," he said. "We are training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria."

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