The Pentagon conceded Wednesday that U.S. troops are in combat in Iraq after days of dancing around the characterization following the first death of U.S. service member in the campaign against ISIS.
“We’re in combat,” Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Wednesday. “I mean, of course, this is a combat zone. There’s a war going on in Iraq, if folks haven’t noticed. And we’re here and it’s all around us.
The comments came after Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler was killed last week in a raid to free hostages held by ISIS. They are in stark contrast to President Barack Obama’s insistence last summer that “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq” while announcing the decision to assist Iraqis fighting ISIS.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter also acknowledged later Wednesday that “there are American troops in combat every day” in Iraq, but he hedged his statement by saying that the overall U.S. role in Iraq is not to carry out a combat mission.