After months of parsing the definition of the word combat in public statements, the Pentagon appears to have formally given up on the pretense that the Iraq War is purely “advisory” for ground troops, with Col. Steve Warren declaring in a briefing to reporters “we’re in combat.”
Col. Warren went on to say “of course it’s combat,” and “that’s why we all carry guns,” a frank assessment that belies the long-standing attempts to portray what was happening there as something less, an effort which was still going on as recently as Monday,
The White House still seems to be trying to mince words, declining to cleanly label the mission as combat, even though the Pentagon already is, on the ground that it’s “different” from other combat operations in the past in Iraq. They also attempted to paint the slain US special forces soldier from last week as having made a decision himself to get involved in fighting during an “advisory” mission.
The big question looming over this shift in declaration however is what it means for a shift in policy on the ground, and more importantly what it means for US-Iraqi relations, as Iraq never requested US ground combat roles and has even made clear on occasion that such involvement was flat out unwelcome.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter had also described the ISIS war as “combat” in testimony to the Senate yesterday, though he similarly declined to offer any details about what this new labeling of the war was going to mean. Carter also suggested US deployments into Syria for combat, but similarly offered no details.