The ongoing claims that US ground troops were sent to Iraq exclusively for “non-combat” purposes have been flimsy for awhile, but became especially so today, when US Special Forces were sent into an explicit combat operation near Hawijah for a rescue operation, leaving one soldier killed.
This doesn’t represent the formal shift to a ground war, one that many have been expecting for some time, however, and the Pentagon insists there were “unique circumstances” and this was a one-off combat operation in an otherwise airstrike-exclusive war.
The Pentagon suggested the decision-making process on this special ground combat was exclusively in-house, with Defense Secretary Ash Carter approving the operation, and only then informed White House officials that it was going to happen. It’s unclear if President Obama was in the loop.
Officials insist the Kurdish Peshmerga led the operation, with US troops just along for support. Four Peshmerga were reported wounded in the fighting, along with the slain US soldier. Several US airstrikes were reported in the area as well.
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