In spite of denials US has changed policy to allow combat roles for troops in Iraq
Last week, a U.S. special forces team together with Kurdish Peshmerga freed 70 hostages from an Islamic State compound in the north of Iraq. They also called in airstrikes that destroyed the compound.
Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was fatally injured during a firefight with IS fighters during the raid. The action was obviously a combat mission. Obama has constantly insisted that there will be no boots on the ground in Iraq engaged in combat. Those U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq are there to advise and train Iraqi forces. When U.S. troops have come under fire in the past, this has been explained as happening as part of the training role. However, in the recent action the US forces were obviously actively involved and even called in air support.At first the action was called a unique case, but later Defense Secretary Ashton Carter promised more such attacks, contradicting the earlier explanation. On Tuesday, Carter said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that that the U.S. will begin direct action on the ground against the Islamic State(ISIL):Senator Jim Inhofe, who represents Oklahoma Wheeler's constituency said:Nevertheless, Carter continues to insist the U.S. policy is not changed and that there will no U.S. combat role on the ground in Iraq. Sending special forces troops into combat "doesn't represent us assuming a combat role."The best one can say about this, is that Carter is making the point that there are not regular troops sent to Iraq to engage in combat on the ground. Still, that special forces units are now involved in what are clearly combat missions in Iraq directly contradicts Obama's promise that no U.S. troops will wage combat missions on the ground in Iraq as shown on the appended video.
"We won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL, or conducting such missions directly whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground,"Even though these attacks are clearly combat missions, Carter insisted that such a raid "represents a continuation of our advise and assist mission." If this is so, the administration's insistence that the mission did not involve combat was incorrect.
“While the (Obama) administration declared an official end to our combat mission in Iraq in 2011, Oklahomans and our nation are reminded today that combat is still a reality for our all-volunteer force in the Middle East.”