The Pentagon will send a new Special Operations force to Iraq to intensify U.S. and Iraqi operations against the Islamic State, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Tuesday.

Carter, providing the House Armed Services Committee an update on President Obama’s plan for countering the extremist group, said the United States was sending “a specialized expeditionary targeting force” to help Iraqi troops and to intensify direct action against the militants there.

“These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders,” Carter said, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “That creates a virtuous cycle of better intelligence, which generates more targets, more raids and more momentum.”

He said the elite American forces would also be positioned to conduct “unilateral operations” within Syria.

Several weeks ago, the Obama administration approved a plan to expand its military effort against the Islamic State, which remains dug in across Iraq and Syria despite over a year of U.S. and allied airstrikes, as well as sending Special Operations forces to Syria and increasing the number raids against militants.

In October, a Delta Force soldier was killed in a joint raid to free hostages in central Iraq, the first time since the U.S. military returned to Iraq in 2014 that an American service member died in combat there.

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