(CNN) – CNN has learned the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force is preparing for special operations to target, capture or kill top ISIS leadership in Iraq.
This comes as the self-proclaimed Islamic State takes responsibility for twin suicide bombings that tore through Baghdad over the weekend.
Monday at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Ash Carter outlined what Delta and the Expeditionary Targeting Force, ETF, has been ordered to do. “Seizing places and people. Freeing hostages and prisoners of ISIL and making it such that ISIL has to fear that anywhere, anytime it may be struck. And the only thing I will say is the ETF is in position.”
Timing and locations of all operations remain classified. There are about 200 troops in northern Iraq. They have been setting up safe houses, establishing and paying off informant networks and gathering intelligence.
The plan: attack compounds, not just to capture or kill ISIS, but to grab laptops, cell phones, anything that can provide more intelligence and lead to more raids.
CNN Military Analyst Col. Cedric Leighton said, “Special operations forces have vast experience in Iraq and Afghanistan using these kinds of tactics and techniques.”
New techniques as well. With surprising openness, the Secretary of Defense detailed going after ISIS in cyberspace. “To interrupt, disrupt ISIL’s command and control, to cause them to lose confidence in their networks, to overload their networks so that they can’t function.”
The ultimate goal: drive ISIS off the dark web that the U.S. cannot monitor. “Sometimes we do drive them to other means. But it cuts both ways. Sometimes, those other means are easier for us to listen to.”
But it could have unintended consequences. Col. Leighton said, “You are going to end up, basically, not knowing what they are doing. They could be using everything from couriers to carrier pigeons in order to get the job done for them.”
All of this as Carter is considering sending even more troops for the upcoming Iraqi operation to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. “Because of our strategy and our determination to accelerate our campaign, momentum is now on our side and not on ISIL’s.”
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