Escalation Nation: US Has Secretly Been in Combat in Iraq for Months
October 30, 2015 Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & FoxNews.com
US special operations forces reportedly have carried out several covert combat missions against ISIS over the past year, contrary to the Pentagon's insistence that operations like last week's raid of an ISIS-held prison in northern Iraq was a "unique" circumstance. Pentagon officials are now conceding that they've been engaged in secret ground combat for months. The matter was kept so classified that even the name of the office itself is considered a state secret.
US Has Secretly Been in Combat in Iraq for Months Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(October 29, 2015) -- Last week's "first of the ISIS war" combat death for a US soldier in Iraq gave way to admissions, over the past two days, that the Pentagon is engaged in ground combat as a fairly regular matter during what officials have presented as an exclusively "advisory" deployment. It's also apparently not new.
Apparently determined to protest the charge of "mission creep" in the war, officials are now conceding that they've been engaged in secret ground combat for months now, and therefore this isn't mission creep, but rather a transition to public admission of what they've been doing all along.
Officials also made reference to a US special operations office being run out of the Kurdish capital of Irbil, saying the matter was kept so highly classified that even the name of the office itself is considered a state secret that won't be released.
Sen. Bob Corker (R - TN), head of the Foreign Relations Committee, downplayed the seriousness of the White House carrying out a secret ground war even as they were publicly telling the American people that no ground combat would ever happen in Iraq, saying "it's the way our government is set up."
Corker did however express concern about the lack of information given to Congress about the scope of the special operations ground combat, saying that Congress isn't "even close to fully knowledgeable as to what is happening."
That apparently even leaves open the question of whether last week's death was the first "combat casualty" of the war, as officials are now suggesting that there are at least five American ground soldiers who were wounded in Iraq over the course of the war, and the details of all of those incidents are being kept secret.
Sgt. Joshua Wheeler's death last week appears to have been the first actual death of the conflict, and covering that up appears to have been a step too far for the Pentagon leadership. This is at least the public explanation for why the Pentagon went from "ruling out" combat to insisting a ground war was self-evidence in the matter of about 48 hours.
It may be too soon to rule out mission creep as well, however, as even if the US has been in secret ground combat for months doesn't mean the sudden admission of limited ground combat might not suggest the "secret" part of the war is going to transition into something even more aggressive.
US Special forces reportedly in covert combat for months against ISIS FoxNews.com
(October 29, 2015) -- US special operations forces reportedly have carried out several covert combat missions against ISIS over the past year, contrary to the Pentagon's insistence that operations like last week's raid of an ISIS-held prison in northern Iraq was a "unique" circumstance.
Bloomberg View reported that a special operations task force staffs an operations center in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil to support such missions. The report, which cited US and Kurdish officials, claimed that the task force has worked in recent months to identify and locate senior leaders of ISIS. Members of the group also participated in last week's raid, during which Army Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler was killed. Wheeler became the first American to die in combat since the launch of anti-ISIS operations last year.
At a Pentagon briefing in Baghdad Tuesday, spokesman Col. Steve Warren answered a question about whether US forces in Iraq were in combat against ISIS in no uncertain terms.
"We're in combat," Warren said. "I thought I made that pretty clear ... That is why we all carry guns. That's why we all get combat patches when we leave here, that's why we all receive [an] immediate danger badge. So, of course we're in combat."
Last week, Cook said the raid on the ISIS prison in the town of Hawija was "consistent with our counter-ISIL effort to train, advise and assist Iraqi forces", using a different acronym for the terror group. He also said the rescue was a "unique" circumstance, but declined to say that it was the only time US forces have engaged in a form of ground combat in Iraq. Instead, he noted that US troops are "allowed to defend themselves, and also defend partner forces, and to protect against the loss of innocent life."
Cook's previous comments had kept with a general avoidance on the part of administration officials to admit that US troops were in combat. However, on Friday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said while discussing the raid, "This is combat, things are complicated."
In addition to the death of Master Sgt. Wheeler, The Daily Beast reported earlier this week that five service members had been wounded in action since the start of operations in Iraq last year. However, the Pentagon has refused to disclose how and when they were injured. The Washington Post reported in March that one of the wounded service members was hit in the face by bullet fragments while coming under enemy fire.
Bloomberg View reported that in addition to the special operations task force, the operations center also contains so-called Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, who work with US allies and the Iraqis to coordinate combat flights against ISIS over Iraq. A third group, from the Marine Special Operations Command, is in charge of training Kurdish counter-terrorism forces.
On Tuesday, Carter testified on Capitol Hill that that the military plans a "higher and heavier rate of strikes" against ISIS targets. Separately, a senior US official confirmed to Fox News that President Obama is considering proposals to move US troops closer to the front lines in the fight.
On Wednesday, retired Gen. John Allen told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that as the US continues to build up its military options in Syrian, European nations might consider combat operations to battle extremists.
Allen said the US military recently began asking its European allies to join it at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey where the US is being allowed to launch fighter aircraft and surveillance missions in Syria.
"I expect that as time goes on, and as more opportunity becomes available to us, we may well see our European partners become more kinetically involved in Syria," Allen said.
"There may be opportunities in the south as well as in the north where our European coalition partners could in fact play an important role, and I'm thinking special operations," Allen said, adding that additional details could only be provided in a classified setting.
Fox News' Jennifer Griffin and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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