Iraq: We Didn’t Ask for US Boots on the Ground. Army Spokesperson: ‘Of Course It’s Combat.’

October 30th, 2015 - by admin

Corey Dickstein / Stars and Stripes & Cassandra Vinograd / NBC News – 2015-10-30 21:33:53

Iraq: We Didn’t Ask for US Ground Operations
Cassandra Vinograd / NBC News

(October 30, 2015) — The Iraqi government said Wednesday it didn’t ask for — and doesn’t need — the “direct action on the ground” promised by the Pentagon.

The revelation came a day after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the US may carry out more unilateral ground raids — like last week’s rescue operation to free hostages — in Iraq to target ISIS militants.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s spokesman told NBC News that any military involvement in the country must be cleared through the Iraqi government just as US-led airstrikes are. “This is an Iraqi affair and the government did not ask the US Department of Defense to be involved in direct operations,” spokesman Sa’ad al-Hadithi told NBC News. “We have enough soldiers on the ground.”

He acknowledged the importance of US assistance in Iraq, saying that his country needs American help “arming and training out forces.” The US currently has around 3,300 troops in Iraq to train and advise Iraqi forces and protect US facilities.

The Pentagon has said that the recent raid was in response to a request from the Kurdish regional government — a semi-autonomous body that governs in northern Iraq — which had learned the hostages faced imminent execution.

White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said Tuesday the administration has “no intention of long-term ground combat,” adding that US forces will continue to robustly train, advise and assist.

Hadithi’s response to the prospect of US direct involvement comes amid mounting pressure from Iraq’s ruling coalition on the prime minister to request Russian airstrikes against ISIS. Moscow’s move to mount strikes against ISIS in Syria has put the US and Russia at odds.

US Spokesman in Iraq:
‘Of Course It’s Combat’

Corey Dickstein / Stars and Stripes

WASHINGTON (October 28, 2015) — US troops in Iraq are in combat. That’s what the Baghdad-based spokesman for the American-led, anti-Islamic State coalition told reporters Wednesday.

Pentagon officials have hesitated to label the role of US forces against the militants in Iraq and Syria as combat in the week since Army Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler was killed in a firefight during a raid on an Islamic State prison compound outside of Hawijah in the Kirkuk province. But Army Col. Steve Warren, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, was more direct Wednesday, speaking with reporters at the Pentagon through video conference.

“We’re in combat,” Warren said of the roughly 3,500 US troops in Iraq. “Of course it is; that’s why we all carry guns, that’s why we all get combat patches when we leave here, that’s why we all received imminent danger pay. So, of course it’s combat.”

In June, as President Barack Obama announced he would send more US troops into Iraq’s heavily contested Anbar province, he emphasized “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq.”

The raid in which Wheeler was killed Oct. 22 has raised questions of mission creep more than one year into Operation Inherent Resolve. Wheeler was the first US servicemember to die in Iraq since the American withdrawal in 2011.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has said more such raids could be conducted, but they did not “represent us assuming a combat role.”

Warren said raids with “capable, willing and able” partners should be expected. But a return to full-scale ground combat operations such as the United States conducted in Iraq between 2003 and 2009 would not happen.

“You’re not going to see . . . a large presence of US forces out there at every level with the entire Iraqi army,” he said. “. . . We’re talking about raids, a very specific term — a combat action that is conducted to achieve a certain objective and then the forces are immediately removed. That’s a very key doctrinal point that’s important to make.”

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