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.