Secretary of Defense Ash Carter confirmed Tuesday during hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee that American forces will begin open “direct action” against terrorist targets in the Middle East. The question of American forces in combat has been danced around by the Obama administration for months as the White House and the Pentagon rebuild U.S. military capability in the fight against the Islamic State. Mr. Obama declared an end to the war in Iraq in 2011, and many believe his decision gave the green light for ISIS to be formed in the remaining power vacuum.
The issue was brought to light in stark terms as Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, a member of the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force counter-terrorism unit, was killed last week while leading the charge against an ISIS prison in a bid to rescue Kurdish hostages. At first Secretary Carter attempted to say Master Sgt. Wheeler was not involved in “combat.” However, it did not take long for this narrative to be changed.
Fox News reported on Mr. Carter’s testimony to the committee: “We won’t hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL … or conducting such mission directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground. This may mean some American soldiers will be in harm’s way, no question about it.”
Mr. Carter stated last week that the military expects “more raids of this kind” and that the rescue mission “represents a continuation of our advise and assist mission.”