Marking the next phase of mission creep, the United States is deploying more special operations forces to Iraq, where they will be given license to operate unilaterally in neighboring Syria, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced Tuesday.
Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee, Carter referred to the deployment as a "specialized expeditionary targeting force" aimed at providing assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga troops engaged in combat with ISIS, also referred to as the Islamic State and Daesh.
"These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture [ISIS] leaders," said Carter, in a direct reference to their combat roles. Carter did not specify exactly how many service members will deploy, saying only that the number will be "larger than 50."
The deployment will constitute a "standing force," meaning the commandos will be headquartered in Iraq, said Carter. What's more, additional deployments will likely follow, or as Carter put it: "There will be more."
While the announcement marked an escalation in the administration's public line, it appears to be a continuation of the already-existing U.S. policy, under which the troop presence has expanded to both countries.
There are currently about 3,500 U.S. service members in Iraq and up to 50 special forces in Syria.
In addition to troop deployments, the U.S. is responsible for the vast majority of the 5,107 airstrikes in Iraq and 2,712 in Syria conducted by the end of October 2015, according to the count of journalist Chris Woods.
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT
Never Miss a Beat.
Get our best delivered to your inbox.
It is not known how many civilians have been killed in these bombings, which have escalated in the wake of the Paris attacks. In October alone, there were at least 22 incidents in Iraq and Syria in which the U.S.-led coalition may have killed up to 102 civilians total, according to Woods.
In some areas, civilians have been bombarded by numerous air forces. For example, the hundreds of thousands of people who live in Raqqa, Syria have endured airstrikes by U.S., Russian, Syrian, and French air forces, as well as the brutality of ISIS.
The U.S. escalation comes amid growing concern over the rush to war in the wake of the Paris massacre on November 13, with large protests slated for Tuesday evening in London on the eve of the UK's parliamentary to join the bombing campaign in Syria.
Analysts have repeatedly warned that there is no U.S. military solution to the rise of ISIS, and say, in fact, American aggression has clearly failed. From anti-war campaigners to a former U.S. intelligence chief to President Barack Obama himself, many have acknowledged that U.S. military aggression played a critical role in fueling the rise of ISIS in the first place.
"We have enough evidence that trying to fight extremist ideologies by sending more troops doesn't work," Raed Jarrar, expert on Middle East politics and government relations manager for the American Friends Service Committee, told Common Dreams. "The U.S. has been doing that for years and failing."
"More importantly," Jarrar added, "the U.S. is fighting alongside war criminals and human rights abusers in the Iraqi forces. The Obama administration is doubling down on a misguided policy that will lead to more conflict and violence."