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.
So now the U.S. has Marine artillery in combat in Iraq even as we pretend no boots on ground. We're so full of sh*t. https://t.co/kmm573EBgO
— Peter Van Buren (@WeMeantWell) March 22, 2016
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.
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 Military.com. It remains unclear at what point the Department of Defense would describe the U.S. military presence in Iraq as "boots on the ground."
It's funny how "no boots on the ground in Iraq" has quietly turned into 5,000 boots on the ground
— John (@angry_vet_) March 22, 2016
Troubling that Marine killed, others wounded in Iraq comes amid policy in which WH won't acknowledge policy is in fact "boots on the ground"
— Gordon Lubold (@glubold) March 19, 2016
Happy 13th anniv of the criminal invasion of Iraq: Another US life lost in "No boots-on-the-ground, non-combat" war https://t.co/fNEWCQ62g0
— Mike Prysner (@MikePrysner) March 21, 2016