U.S. special operations forces have arrived in Iraq, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday, and are set to help Baghdad's forces target Islamic State (IS) strongholds.
Carter said about 200 commandos "have already established contact" with the Iraqis and expect to look for "new targets, new strikes and new opportunities."
The U.S. defense chief made the announcement at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, speaking to soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division who will soon deploy to Iraq. He laid out plans to retake extensive Islamic State territory in Iraq and Syria, where the militants have claimed the establishment of a religious caliphate.
The U.S. is seeking to help Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces retake Mosul in northern Iraq and also assist Syrian rebel forces to oust IS fighters in northern Syria and in their self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa.
The deployment of the commandos represents a new U.S. commitment to the campaign against IS, in addition to the hundreds of combat fighter jet and drone attacks the U.S. has been conducting for more than a year, even as President Barack Obama has rejected massive deployment of ground troops.
The dispatch of the commandos is in addition to 50 U.S. special operation troops Obama sent to Syria last year to coordinate with rebel forces in the civil war there against President Bashar al-Assad that has raged for nearly five years.
"President Obama is committed to doing what it takes - as opportunities arise, as we see what works, and as the enemy adapts - until ISIL is delivered a lasting defeat," Carter said, using another acronym for IS.
Carter plans to meet in Paris next week with defense chiefs from Britain, France, Australia, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands to ask them to do more in the fight against IS.
"Each of these nations has a significant stake in completing the destruction of this evil organization," Carter said, "and we must include all of the capabilities they can bring to the field."