U.S. military forces in the Middle East are upping the number of airstrikes and special operations raids and increasing on-the-ground intelligence gathering in an effort to intensify the campaign against the Islamic State group, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told House lawmakers Tuesday.

“We’re at war,” Carter said in testimony on Capitol Hill. “We are using the might of the finest fighting force the world has ever known. Tens of thousands of U.S. personnel are operating in the broader Middle East region, and more are on the way.”

The blunt characterization of the steadily growing military mission in the region stunned members of the House Armed Services Committee, who swung between questioning the strength of the White House strategy against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL or ISIS, and labeling the mission a full-scale war. […]