NEW: Iraqi official says no need for foreign ground troops, military activities need Baghdad's OK
Ash Carter testified Tuesday before the House Armed Services Committee
In his remarks, he said the U.S. military was sending "a specialized expeditionary targeting force" to Iraq
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced Tuesday that the U.S. military will send “a specialized expeditionary targeting force” aimed at conducting more raids in Iraq.
A U.S. official tells CNN that decision means there will be additional U.S. Special Operation forces on the ground in Iraq to fight ISIS.
Carter made the remarks testifying before the House Armed Services Committee.
“Next, in full coordination with the government of Iraq, we’re deploying a specialized expeditionary targeting force to assist Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces and to put even more pressure on ISIL,” Carter said. “These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders.”
The force is in addition to the “less than 50” Special Operations forces Obama authorized in October to aid in the fight against ISIS in Syria.
Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said there is no need for foreign ground troops in Iraq, according to a statement posted on his Facebook page.
He also stressed that any military operation or foreign troop presence in Iraq will not happen without permission and coordination of the Iraqi government.
The Obama administration has faced scrutiny for its handling of ISIS in recent months. The President’s political critics at home – led by Republicans running for his office in 2016 – sharply criticized comments Obama made saying ISIS was “contained” a day before a terror attack on Paris left 130 people dead.
In answering lawmaker questions, Carter said the force would capitalize on what U.S. troops are good at: Gathering intelligence and having “the long reach that nobody else has.”
“It puts everyone on notice,” Carter told Congress. “You don’t know at night who is going to be coming into the window.”
CNN’s Ross Levitt, Jennifer Rizzo and Roba Alhenawi contributed to this report.