The US is deploying special operations forces to both Iraq and Syria “to support the fight against ISIL,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Monday.

Characterizing US personnel as “force multipliers” in the fight against Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, Carter said their presence on the ground will enable them to collect ground intelligence, strengthen the target list in their air campaign and aid local forces supported by the West.

US President Barack Obama approved the deployment of up to 50 special forces last month, equipped to conduct targeted raids against Islamic State militants based in eastern Syria and northern Iraq. Carter said that number may increase over time if the current 50 prove effective.

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