President Obama may have promised in 2014 that U.S. troops would no longer fight in Iraq, but the Pentagon clarified via Defense Secretary Ash Carter: that’s not exactly true.
“There are American troops in combat every day,” Carter said, when asked if U.S. troops were fighting in Iraq, the Hill reported.
And when asked if Delta Force commando Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler died in combat during a special operations raid against ISIS last week, Carter said bluntly:”Of course,” the Hill said.
Wheeler had been part of a U.S. joint operation with Kurdish Peshmerga to rescue roughly 70 Iraqi hostages.
Carter did stipulate that troops in Iraq still don’t have a combat mission, but rather one of training.
Still, the mantra counters what Obama vowed in 2014 would be the role of American troops in Iraq. Then, Obama said, the Hill reported: “American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again. American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq, but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region and American interests as well.”
The White House has since expanded on the definition of combat to include “large-scale combat operations,” the news outlet reported.
Carter, meanwhile, also said the U.S. military mission in Iraq is overall one of “equipping, training, advising and assisting” the local forces.
“That’s the only way to make defeat of ISIL stick, is to have the involvement of local forces, who can take and hold territory – and we’re prepared to help them,” he said.
His comments came a day after he told Senate Armed Services Committee members more U.S. troops would likely conduct special operations against ISIS.
“We won’t hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL or conducting such missions directly,” he said to Congress, the Hill reported. “Whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground.”
And Carter isn’t the only one characterizing the U.S. role in Iraq as one of combat.
Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, said such raids are “specific missions [where] there is combat action conducted to achieve a certain objective and then the forces are removed,” the Hill reported.