Early Thursday morning, Iraq time, a unit of Kurd commandos with US advisors (I’m presuming Special Forces) raided an ISIS installation to free a large number of prisoners being held there, including about three dozen Iraqi government soldiers. In the course of the raid, one American was killed.
An American soldier was killed on Thursday morning as American and Kurdish commandos raided an Islamic State outpost near the northern Iraqi town of Hawija, freeing prisoners there and capturing some of the militants themselves, Iraqi and American officials said. The commando became the first American soldier killed in action in Iraq since the withdrawal in 2011.
American military officials declined to comment on the details of the classified operation, some of which remained unclear. But as described by Iraqi officials in the area, the mission appeared to be a significant joint strike against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, at a time when Iraqi and American officials are trying to mount a wider counteroffensive against the militants.
Iraqi officials said the raid involved American helicopters, Kurdish and American Special Operations forces, and airstrikes. The commando who was killed was not identified pending notification of his family.
To the untrained observer this sounds pretty cut and dried as a combat casualty. But to a member of a US military that has been deeply and perhaps permanently corrupted by a regime that called the Fort Hood terror attack “workplace violence”, this was not combat at all.
“Last night, Iraqi forces, supported by a U.S. Special Operations team in their advise and assist capacity, conducted a complex and highly-successful operation that resulted in the freeing of approximately 70 hostages held by ISIL in an prison near Hawijah, Iraq,” General Lloyd Austin III, the head of of U.S. Central Command, said in a statement. “We commend and congratulate the brave individuals who participated in this successful operation that saved many lives, and we deeply mourn the loss of one of our own who died while supporting his Iraqi comrades engaged in a tough fight. Our gratitude and heartfelt condolences go out to this young man’s family, his teammates and friends.”
General Austin’s statement is not a slip. It is carefully crafted to ensure that Obama’s statement remains semantically true:
We have had advisors in Iraq through our embassy, and we’re prepared to send a small number of additional American military advisors — up to 300 — to assess how we can best train, advise, and support Iraqi security forces going forward.
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.
I think we always have to guard against mission creep, so let me repeat what I’ve said in the past: American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again.
As The Daily Beast reporter points out:
Even after the raid, Pentagon officials, who once insisted there were no American boots on the ground, continued to call the U.S. effort a “train, advise and assist” mission, not a combat one. It marked the latest game of military semantics in a war defined as much by its messaging as by its tactical results.
So while we have the former Secretary of State lying to Congress about her role in the Benghazi fiasco, we have the administration lying to us about what we are doing in Iraq.