WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) -- The CIA has increased its role in Iraq to fight al-Qaida affiliates backing an Islamic militant group in Syria, U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal.

The stepped-up covert mission supporting Iraq's Counter-terrorism Service, or CTS, targets al-Qaida in Iraq, also known as al-Qaida in Mesopotamia, a Salafi jihadi militant al-Qaida affiliate that is part of the Iraqi insurgency.