US deploying special forces to Iraq and Syria
The Pentagon is deploying "specialised" troops to Iraq and Syria to help fight Islamic State group militants, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Tuesday.
"In full coordination with the Government of Iraq, we're deploying a specialized expeditionary targeting force to assist Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces and to put even more pressure on [IS]," Carter told the House Armed Services Committee.
"These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence, and capture [IS] leaders."
Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi released a statement in which he said Iraq does not need foreign ground combat troops.
"While we welcome this support, we emphasise any such support and 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," said Abadi's statement.
A number of Iraqi militias have also announced that they will fight any US troops deployed in Iraq according to Reuters.
Carter also said that he "prepared to expand" special operations troops in Syria to fight the Islamic State group.
Iraq has seen an spike in violence in November with the number of people killed in fighting and bombings up from October.
The United Nations said 888 people - 489 civilians, including police - were killed in November.
Iraqi security forces - which includes Kurdish and Shia militias fighting alongside the army - lost399 troops.
The UN could not obtain or verify deaths in Anbar province, which is largely run by IS militants.
The western province is a former stronghold of al-Qaeda in Iraq and Sunni insurgency forces.
Ramadi was captured by IS in May during a spectacular assault on the city.
It is now surrounded by Iraqi forces with an assault on the city "imminent" with leaflets dropped on the city warning residents to flee.
US military believes that there are between 600 and 1,000 IS militants holed up in Ramadi.
Iraqi troops advanced on the north of the city on Tuesday, raising the Iraqi flag above a factory, according to Al-Araby al-Jadeed's Iraq correspondent.