Approximately 200 special operations forces, including intelligence personnel, pilots to position them, mechanics to maintain their aircraft, a quick reaction force and other support personnel in addition to the main assault force are headed to Iraq in the next few weeks as part of the new “specialized expeditionary targeting force” announced by Defense Secretary Ash Carter today on Capital Hill, a U.S. official tells Fox News.
“These guys will be conducting a range of operations including direct action,” or targeted assassinations of senior ISIS leadership in U.S. military jargon.
A separate senior U.S. official says capturing senior ISIS leaders would be an important component of the new assault force’s mission to learn more about ISIS networks as well.
“This intel gathering mission is just as important, if not more important, than killing bad guys,” a U.S. official said.
He also said the number of troops in this new special ops component “could grow” north of 200 people.
The U.S. military conducted similar operations in Iraq to take out senior al-Qaeda leadership, such as the mission led by Gen. Stanley McChrystal which killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq in June 2006.
“It’s a 3-1 ratio [support-to-tooth],” said a U.S. official familiar with the composition of special operations forces describing the composition of the force.
The nearly 200 member special ops force, is separate from the 50 special operations forces going to Syria, the official said.
Ash Carter described the new force going to Iraq today in his opening remarks, but did not include a number or a timeline.
"We're deploying a specialized expeditionary targeting force to assist Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces and to put even more pressure on ISIL. These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture ISIL leaders," says Carter in his opening remarks.
A U.S. official tells Fox News the new special ops force will also “kill” senior ISIS leaders during nighttime raids if the mission requires.
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