The United States said on Tuesday it was deploying a new force of special operations troops to Iraq to conduct raids against Islamic State there and in neighboring Syria, a ratcheting up of Washington’s campaign against the group that was quickly rejected by Iraq’s government.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the deployment of such a force was not acceptable without Iraq’s approval, raising questions over how closely Washington coordinated the plan with Baghdad. Powerful Shi’ite Muslim armed groups pledged to fight any new deployment of U.S. forces to the country.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the deployment of the new “specialized expeditionary targeting force” was being carried out in coordination with Iraq’s government and would aid Iraqi government security forces and Kurdish peshmerga forces.
“These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders,” Carter told the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, using an acronym for Islamic State.
“This force will also be in a position to conduct unilateral operations into Syria.”
While the force is expected to number only about 200, its creation marks the latest stepping up of U.S. military pressure on Islamic State while also exposing American forces to greater risk, something President Barack Obama has done only sparingly.
The force is separate from a previously announced deployment of up to 50 U.S. special operations troops in Syria to coordinate on the ground with U.S.-backed rebels fighting in a civil war raging since 2011.
“The Iraqi government stresses that any…