Does that mean that they will turn around and come home now?
Hours after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Tuesday that the U.S. would send more Special Forces troops to Iraq for anti-ISIS operations “at the invitation of the Iraqi government,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi responded without enthusiasm to the idea.
“Iraq welcomes support from international partners but there is no need for foreign combat ground troops,” Abadi said on his Twitter feed.
In a statement, his office elaborated.
“The prime minister has called for an increase in weapons, training, and support from international partners, while reiterating that there is no need for foreign ground combat troops,” it said.
The statement added that “special operations anywhere in Iraq can only be deployed subject to the approval of the Iraqi government and in coordination with the Iraqi forces and with full respect to Iraqi sovereignty.”
Carter told the House Armed Services Committee earlier that a “specialized expeditionary targeting force” to be deployed in Iraq would help the Iraqis and Iraqi Kurds fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL/Daesh).
“These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture ISIL leaders,” he said.
Carter added that the unit “will also be in a position to conduct unilateral operations into Syria,” where the administration a month ago announced plans to deploy up to 50 special forces troops to help what it calls “moderate opposition forces” in their fight against ISIS.
U.S. Special Forces troops have already been involved in combat in Iraq: In October, U.S. and Kurdish Special Forces raided an ISIS-run prison and rescued dozens of hostages feared to be at risk of imminent execution. The mission brought the first American combat fatality in Iraq since U.S. troops were withdrawn in 2011.
In its statement, Abadi’s office highlighted the role played by Iraqi special forces and other troops.
“Iraqi special forces, the counter-terrorism force and other heroic Iraqi combatants have played a key role in targeting the leaders of Daesh and undertaken dangerous missions in order to seize back vital and strategic areas from the terrorists of Daesh,” it said.