Washington, D.C. – Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced Dec. 11 the United States will send 200 additional special operations forces to Syria.

The announcement follows the creation of new authorities to provide the Syrian opposition with man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). That provision, in addition to another creating a counter Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fund, was contained within the fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.

Secretary Carter made the announcement during an unannounced trip to Iraq following his attendance at an international security conference in Bahrain. Carter met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as well as Kurdish Regional Government President Masoud Barzani. Those meetings come as combined Iraqi, Kurdish, and coalition forces press forward in a battle to recapture the city of Mosul from ISIL.

“They play a vital role in helping to identify, build and then enable the force that will expel ISIL from Raqqa and be a critical part of destroying ISIL here in Iraq and Syria, which we must do and which we will do,” he said.