Two American service members were injured in separate instances over the weekend in Iraq and Syria. Both were engaged in advise and assist missions with indigenous forces fighting Islamic State when they were hit by “indirect fire.”
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis insisted they were not present on the front lines or engaged in “active combat.” When pressured to define active combat, Capt. Davis clarified the service members were “not trigger pulling offensively.”
One was injured in Iraq’s northern province of Idlib where U.S. forces are likely assisting local Kurdish Peshmerga forces in early preparations to retake the city of Mosul. Idlib is the same province where U.S. Navy Seal Charles Keating IV was killed by ISIS gunfire while assisting the Peshmerga near Mosul. Mosul is the second largest city in Iraq and its recapture is considered key to defeating ISIS in Iraq.
The second was injured in operating north of the ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria. The United States has approximately 300 special operations forces inside Syria who are assisting the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in its advance on Raqqa.
Davis refused to clarify the extent of their injuries in accordance with Pentagon policy “not to give our enemy free battle damage assessments.” Davis also did not specify which branch of service each is a member of.
To date, 14 U.S. service members have been wounded and three killed since the commencement of Operation Inherent Resolve in June, 2014. The Pentagon continues to assert there is a difference between presence in a dangerous area and an active combat situation.
In March, Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed by a similar indirect rocket attack on a coalition forward operating base in Iraq.
President Barack Obama, in an interview to Stars and Stripes Friday, acknowledged the three service members killed in Iraq since 2014 died in “combat while they were supporting local forces.”
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