The US has deployed its elite counter-terrorism unit Delta Force for covert operations in Iraq to capture or kill high-ranking Islamic State operatives and gather intelligence, according to a media report.
The US army's elite Delta Force operations to target, capture or kill top IS operatives have begun in Iraq, after several weeks of covert preparation, an official with direct knowledge of the force's activities was quoted as saying by CNN.
The official said that the group has spent the last several weeks preparing, including setting up safe houses, establishing informant networks and coordinating operations with Iraqi and Peshmerga units.
It is the same strategy that special operations forces have used in previous deployments to combat zones.
The Delta Force plans to replicate the strategy that special operations forces used for years in Iraq and Afghanistan, the report said.
It said the plan is to gather enough intelligence to stage raids on terror compounds and hideouts.
Then from intelligence gathered at those sites, such as laptops and cellphones, forces will try to learn more about IS networks and quickly attack additional related targets.
It is a strategy that worked in May 2015, when Delta raided a compound in Syria, killing IS operative Abu Sayyaf and capturing his wife, the report said.
The Expeditionary Targeting Force which numbers about 200 personnel -- has collected enough intelligence now about IS operations in Iraq in up to half a dozen locations that raids and field operations are ready inside Iraq, the report said.
Several Pentagon and military officials have declined to discuss specifics of the so-called Expeditionary Targeting Force.
But Defense Secretary Ash Carter seemed to confirm in comments made at the Pentagon on Monday that the Special Operations forces had begun missions.
"The only thing I'll say is the (Expeditionary Targeting Force) is in position, it is having an effect and operating, and I expect it to be a very effective part of our acceleration campaign," he said during a press conference.
According to Carter, the force will conduct raids, seize places and people, and free IS-held hostages and prisoners.
Carter also said that the force would cause IS "to fear that anywhere, anytime, it may be struck."
A US official said Carter's statement reflects that Delta operations have begun.
While the ETF is not yet operating in Syria, a separate group of about 50 US special forces have greatly expanded their initial operations there in recent weeks after the Pentagon announced they were going to Syria.