US could put boots on the ground in fight against Isis, says Ash Carter

The defence secretary comments come in wake of mission to free Isis-held hostages that left one US soldier dead

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The Independent Online

The US is to step up attacks on Isis and could escalate its operations to include raids by troops on the ground, according to US defence secretary Ash Carter.

Addressing the Senate armed services committee, Carter said the US "won't hold back" from attacks alongside its allies or "directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground".

"Once we locate them, no target is beyond our reach," he said.

The US has about 3,300 troops in Iraq, where they are training Iraqi forces. There are no US troops in Syria.

Mr Carter did not indicate under what circumstances US ground raids would be ordered.

His comments come after failed attempts to train Syrian rebels.

They also come in the wake of a mission to free Isis-held hostages that left one US soldier, Delta Force member Joshua Wheeler, dead - the first American fatality in the US campaign against Isis.

Carter made his comments to the senate armed services committee

The raid freed 70 Isis prisoners from a compound in Iraq. The terror group had reportedly told the captives they had just an hour left to live, before the joint US-Kurdish forces arrived on the scene.

Mr Carter's comments suggest such raids could now be stepped up.

The defence secretary suggested two other changes to US strategy - a greater focus on the Syrian city of Raqqa, and the Iraqi city or Ramadi.

On Raqqa, the US is to step up support for Kurdish YPG forces as they close around what is Isis's de facto capital.

The Kurds have been the US's most effective allies on the ground in the fight against Isis.

Mr Carter's comments about Ramadi, meanwhile, mark a concession of sorts to Baghdad, which has for months demanded greater US support for its efforts to retake the city.

Until now, the US has preferred to focus on Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.

Separately, Iran is to attend an international summit on the Syrian conflict due to be held in Vienna on Friday, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

The move will be the first time Tehran, which backs Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, has participated in international talks on the conflict.