American soldier killed in combat in Iraq despite Obama pledge

Several times over the last few years, President Obama has pledged that there would be no ground forces deployed in Iraq and that they would not take part in combat operations.

According to recent reports, there are now about 5,000 U.S. servicemen in Iraq – far more than previously reported.  They're there ostensibly to train Iraq forces to take on the Islamic State in the fight for Mosul.

But events over the last few months have shown that U.S. soldiers are moving closer to the front line and are now in harm's way.  In March, a U.S. Marine was killed by a rocket fired by ISIS into a secret firebase located in northern Iraq.  Yesterday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the death of another U.S. serviceman.  He was working with the Kurdish Peshmerga when ISIS forces broke through their lines near Irbil.

Washington Post:

 “It is a combat death,” Carter said at the outset of a news in Stuttgart, Germany where he has been consulting with European allies this week.

The defense secretary provided no other details, other than to tell reporters that the serviceman lost his life “in the neighborhood of Irbil.”

“A Coalition service member was killed in northern Iraq as a result of enemy fire,” the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement. “Further information will be released as appropriate.”

The CENTCOM statement noted it is the policy of the military “to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities.”

A U.S. military official said the American was killed while performing his duty as an adviser to Kurdish Peshmerga troops. He was killed by “direct fire” after Islamic State forces penetrated the Peshmerga’s forward line. The American was three to two to three miles behind that front line, the official said

Vice President Joe Biden visited Baghdad last week to exhort leaders of the government in Iraq to resolve internal political strife and concentrate on the effort to defeat the Islamic State group.

Carter, likewise, visited Baghdad recently. The Obama administration has been pressing the effort against IS, which has been slowed down in its quest to overrun Iraq.

The president is escalating our involvement by stealth, trying to hang on to his "legacy" of quitting two wars and bringing American servicemen home.  It's not working, largely because Iraq is close to a political meltdown, and Afghanistan security forces have shown themselves to be unable to stop the Taliban from advancing across the country.

The Iraq political crisis came to a head over the weekend, when protesters egged on by the anti-American Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed the parliament and occupied the building for several hours.  The government is gridlocked and unable to enact the reforms desired by Prime Minister Abadi.  Meanwhile, the great spring offensive to take back Mosul, the largest city in the north, is sputtering and hasn't gotten off the ground yet – hence the increase in American troops who are now directly supporting the Iraqis.

The death of the U.S. serviceman highlights the continued strength of the Islamic State and the difficulty Iraqi forces will have in pushing them out of Mosul by themselves.