The U.S. military is preparing to establish a new Special Operations task force in Iraq, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Tuesday, as the Obama administration seeks to intensify pressure on Islamic State commanders and expand U.S. troops’ direct involvement in battling the militant group.

The decision to post a specialized military unit of about 200 service members marks an important shift in U.S. operations in Iraq, where up to now U.S. troops have been limited largely to advising local forces rather than launching independent operations. The elite U.S. personnel will be conducting raids against the Islamic State, exposing them to additional risks on the ground.

Carter announced the move in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, saying the new force would enable the U.S. military to launch additional commando-style operations and increase intelligence collection, both in Iraq and in neighboring Syria.

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