Carter and Dunford’s testimony set the stage for an opened-ended escalation of ground operations in both Iraq and Syria.
Carter said the number in the new expeditionary force will be “larger” than 50. He didn’t outline any fresh commitments specifically, saying plans would be announced only after foreign ministers first consult their governments at home.
According to Al Jazeera, the Iraqi government wants US troops to help fight ISIS terrorists in Iraq.
Some members of Congress, as well as defense officials who spoke privately to U.S. News, expressed surprise at the suddenness of the announcement and lack of any prior notice that Carter would publicly unveil it on Monday.
“These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders”, he said.
Warren said most of the hundred soldiers taking part in the targeting force would be support personnel, flying helicopters and gathering intelligence.
Then, when asked by Congressman Michael Turner of OH if the United States was winning “now”, Carter would say only that “we will win”.
Only one member of the committee, Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, raised concerns that the continued push to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad under the cover of fighting ISIS was drawing the U.S. into a possible nuclear conflict with Russia, Assad’s main military backer.
“I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria“, the president said.
Carter said the primary mission of the forces sent to Iraq is to destroy ISIS for its “assault on the civilization”, which started with the terror attacks in Paris.
“We assess no change in Russian intent toward coalition aircraft, and we expect Russia will continue to abide by the memorandum of understanding”, he said, referring to the recent U.S.-Russian agreement to protect the airspace safety of U.S. and coalition aviators.
Iraq was not enthusiastic about the American plan. Senator John McCain – who along with many other Republicans has been pushing for more special operations forces in the region for years – called the move a “belated step forward”.
“You heard the secretary of Defense today say both in writing and verbally that we are at war”.
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