Defense chief: US expanding special operations force in Iraq

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, left, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., appear on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015, before the House Armed Services Committee hearing on the U.S. Strategy for Syria and Iraq and its Implications for the Region. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Ash Carter says the U.S. is expanding the U.S. special operations force in Iraq to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces fight Islamic State militants.

Carter told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that over time, these special operators will be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture IS leaders. Carter says that will improve intelligence and generate more targets. He did not offer troop numbers, but said it was being done in cooperation with the Iraqi government.

The defense secretary says the special operators will be focused on defending Iraq’s borders and building the capacity of the Iraqi government forces.

He says the forces also will be in a position to conduct unilateral operations into Syria.

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