Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Marines in Iraq in 2003. The Pentagon revealed Sunday that marines were secretly deployed in the country earlier this month, despite President Obama's 'no boots on the ground' promise. (Photo: mtfrazier/flickr/cc)

Revelation of Secret Iraq Base Belies Claim of 'No Boots on the Ground'

A marine's death forced the Pentagon to acknowledge a secret marine base in Northern Iraq—and it also announced plans to quietly deploy another detachment

Nika Knight Beauchamp

A 27-year-old U.S. marine was killed this weekend by an ISIS rocket attack on a base that the American public didn't know existed.

The death forced the Pentagon to reveal on Sunday—the 13th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War—that it was in the process of setting up a base for marines in Northern Iraq. The Pentagon had supposedly "planned to acknowledge" this escalation of U.S. forces in Iraq later this week, an unnamed defense official told CNN.

The base was attacked a second time on Monday, CNN reported.

The New York Times reported:

In a conference call with reporters, Colonel Warren said the Marines were not combat forces because they were positioned at the outpost to provide "force protection" to American military advisers working alongside Iraqi troops.

"They won’t kind of go off and conduct any type of mission on their own," he said, referring to the Marines. "They don’t really have that capability anyways. They’re just providing coverage, right? They’re providing fire support coverage for the several thousand Iraqi soldiers and the several hundred advisers."

"Force protection" is military jargon for providing security. But the U.S. military has long contracted out its security in Iraq to foreign workers—a policy that has been met with harsh criticism from human rights and labor activists, among many others.

Observers have noted that the DoD's hiring of private contractors in Iraq has only increased under President Obama's watch. Indeed, a glance at Department of Defense contracts reveals that as recently as January the Pentagon hired a private contractor to provide security to the Balad Iraqi Air Force base.

It remains unclear why marines would be deployed to provide security, when the Pentagon appears to continue to rely almost solely on private contractors instead of American soldiers to do that particular job.

Moreover, two defense officials characterized the marines' mission very differently in comments to Daily Beast: these particular marines "were deployed near the front lines of what is expected be the biggest battle of the war...tasked to launch a mission that signaled the U.S. was again furtively expanding its mission in Iraq," the officials said.

Just as with prior escalations of force, the Obama administration continues to argue that the president has still not broken his promise not to put "boots on the ground" in Iraq.

And yet the U.S. Central Command also quietly announced Sunday that it would be deploying an additional detachment of marines to Iraq. It did not state how many troops would be in this new deployment.

Currently, more than 4,000 American soldiers are deployed in the country, according to It remains unclear at what point the Department of Defense would describe the U.S. military presence in Iraq as "boots on the ground."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·

'Zero Tolerance for Corruption': Grijalva, Porter Demand Answers on Alleged Trump Pardon Bribery Scheme

The Democrats believe a real estate developer donated to a Trump-aligned super PAC in exchange for the pardons of two other men.

Julia Conley ·

Millions of Americans Lack Adequate Health Coverage, But the Pentagon Has a New Nuclear Bomber to Flaunt

"This ominous death machine, with its price tag of $750 million a pop, brings huge profits to Northrop Grumman but takes our society one more step down the road of spiritual death," peace activist Medea Benjamin said of the new B-21 Raider.

Brett Wilkins ·

Betrayal of Railway Workers Ignites Working-Class Fury Toward Biden and Democrats

"Politicians are happy to voice platitudes and heap praise upon us for our heroism throughout the pandemic," said one rail leader. "Yet when the steel hits the rail, they back the powerful and wealthy Class 1 rail carriers every time."

Jessica Corbett ·

With GOP House Control Looming, Pascrell Calls for Swift Release of Trump Tax RecordskennyDec 2, 2022
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) walks through the U.S. Capitol on November 30, 2022.
"Donald Trump tried to hide his tax returns from our oversight but after 1,329 days we have finally obtained the documents," said the New Jersey Democrat. "We should review and release them."
Common Dreams Logo