U.S. special forces to target ISIL leaders in Iraq, UK jets to join allied strikes on Syria

Special to WorldTribune.com

The United States is deploying a special operations unit to Iraq that will look to “capture” Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) leaders and “will be in a position to conduct unilateral operations into Syria,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said.

Carter said the U.S. commandos would work with the Iraqi military and Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the fight against ISIL.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter
U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter

“These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders,” Carter said on Dec. 1.

A spokesman for Kata’ib Hizbullah, a powerful Iraqi Shi’ite Muslim group, pledged the jihadist group would fight any U.S. forces who enter Iraq.

The U.S. commandos would be a “primary target for our group,” said Jafaar Hussaini. “We fought them before and we are ready to resume fighting.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office said U.S. assistance was welcomed but would need approval from Iraq’s government, a point Carter acknowledged.

“As we further develop plans for these limited forces, we will continue to work closely with our Iraqi partners on where they will be deployed, what kind of missions they will undertake, and how they will support Iraqi efforts,” a U.S. official said.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron on Dec. 2 sought backing from Parliament for the UK to carry out air strikes against ISIL targets in Syria. British warplanes are currently part of the U.S.-led coalition bombing ISIL targets in Iraq.

“This is not about whether we want to fight terrorism, it’s about how best we do that,” Cameron said. “The question is this: do we work with our allies to degrade and destroy this threat and do we go after these terrorists in their heartlands, from where they are plotting to kill British people? Or do we sit back and wait for them to attack us?”

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, an opponent of UK expanding operations into Syria, is allowing Labour politicians to vote freely on the issue rather than follow party lines. Many Labour members of Parliament are expected to back the bombing campaign.

“It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the prime minister understands public opposition to his ill-thought-out rush to war is growing and wants to hold the vote before it slips from his hands,” Corbyn said.

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