[pjw] INFO: When Is a Boot on the Ground Not a Boot on the Ground? (AP 5/3)
Peace and Justice Works
pjw at pjw.info
Wed May 11 16:13:26 EDT 2016
There have been a rash of articles about the US having "boots on the
ground" despite its claim not to be engaged in combat in Iraq, Syria, or
Afghanistan. Alarmingly, it was revealed recently that the US also now has
troops on the ground in Yemen, where its policy to support Saudi Arabia
(which kills civilians, bombs hospitals, and uses US cluster bombs) and
continue to use drone strikes is exacerbating the "civil" war.
US sends troops to Yemen, steps up anti-Qaeda strikes (AFP 5/7)
We talked a lot about this trend at the last Iraq Affinity Group meeting,
noting in particular that the last person to die in Iraq during the war on
ISIS (this past Saturday) was a Washington State National Guard member.
American service member in Iraq dies of non-combat injury (CNN 5/7)
This in turn has led us to begin contacting our allies on the "Keep
Oregon's Guard in Oregon" campaign to contact all the gubernatorial
candidates here to see if they will pledge not to send our Guard into an
undeclared war (noting our email yesterday about the Army captain who is
suing the US because Congress has not approved of the "war on ISIS").
It was hard to choose which article to forward here, not wanting to
overwhelm your inboxes. The article in the Intercept enumerates the 16
times President Obama pledged not to put "boots on the ground," cornering
State Department spokesperson John Kirby who admits "I'm not disputing the
fact that we have troops on the ground, and they're wearing boots."
As More American Boots Hit the Ground in Syria, U.S. Parses "Boots" and
"Ground" (Intercept 4/29)
The Washington Times points out how America's claim that it is no longer
engaging in "combat" in Afghanistan contradicts the mission of the pilots
who bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital there last October (for
which, by the way, the US cleared itself of any criminal wrongdoing a few
US military's hazy "noncombat" Afghanistan role creates confusion in
hospital bombing (Wash Times 5/1)
The article that appears below is from the Associated Press and has a
handy layout, important statistics, and addresses the semantic gymnastics
the US is going through to claim they're upholding Obama's pledge.
Please don't forget to download, print and display our "No Boots on the
Ground, No Bombs in the Air" flyer that we posted back in December!
peace and justice works iraq affinity group
Q&A: When Is a Boot on the Ground Not a Boot on the Ground?
3 May 2016
Associated Press | by Lolita C. Baldor
WASHINGTON Ñ No one disputes that U.S. military forces are fighting in
combat in Iraq and Syria -- except maybe President Barack Obama and
some members of his administration.
The semantic arguments over whether there are American "boots on the
ground" muddy the view of a situation in which several thousand armed
U.S. military personnel are in Iraq and Syria. Obama has said more than
a dozen times that there would be no combat troops in Iraq and Syria as
the number of service members in those countries grows; last week,
Defense Secretary Ash Carter acknowledged the military personnel there
were in combat and "we should say that clearly."
So, when is a military boot on the ground? And what does it all mean?
Are U.S. military troops in Iraq?
Yes. More than 5,500 U.S. service members. The Pentagon, however,
counts them in different ways. Obama recently authorized an increase in
the number of troops that can deploy to Iraq to advise and assist Iraqi
forces in fighting the Islamic State. The cap was increased last week
from 3,870 to 4,087.
But a number of troops aren't counted against the cap because of the
military's personnel accounting system. For example, troops assigned to
the U.S. Embassy for security or those sent to Iraq for temporary,
short-term assignments are there in addition to the 4,087.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in Stuttgart, Germany for a
change-of-command ceremony Tuesday, revealed that a serviceman had been
killed in combat near Irbil in Iraq. A U.S. military official, speaking
on grounds of anonymity, 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 official said the American was three to two to three
miles behind the front line.
Are U.S. military troops in Syria?
Yes. Last week the Pentagon announced an increase in the number of U.S.
forces working in Syria from 50 to 300. Those troops are working with
local Syrian forces and are mainly Army special forces, but the latest
increase will also include medical and logistics units.
So, that would mean there are U.S. "boots on the ground" in Iraq and Syria,
Yes it would. In Iraq there are advisers, trainers, special operations
forces and others stationed at Iraqi bases, working with the Iraqi
forces. Last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that some
advisers would begin working with Iraqis at the brigade and battalion
level. They had been working with Iraqis at the division headquarters
level. The change would embed those teams of advisers with smaller
units, who would likely be closer to the fight.
In Syria, the U.S. has about 50 special operations forces going into
Syria from a base in a neighboring country to meet with local Syrian
opposition forces. They aren't based in Syria, so they travel in and
out, sometimes staying in the country for several days at a time.
According to officials, the additional 250 forces will do the same
thing. They will not be based in Syria, but will instead work out of
neighboring countries, such as Iraq or Turkey. And they are not there
to fight alongside the Syrians, they are there to provide advice and
What about air strikes? Aren't pilots flying combat missions?
Yes they are. Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, made it clear during a Senate hearing last week that U.S.
fighter jets conducting airstrikes in Iraq and Syria are conducting
Why does the administration say there are no U.S. boots on the ground?
Obama administration officials have consistently told the American
public since 2013 that there will be no combat "boots on the ground" in
Iraq and Syria. Their argument is based on the idea that there are no
conventional U.S. ground forces in large units fighting the Islamic
State militants in direct combat. Saying there are "no U.S. boots on
the ground" Ñ while inaccurate Ñ is meant to convey the
administration's view that U.S. troops are not on the front lines
waging the war. Instead, U.S. troops are advising and assisting the
Iraqi and Syrian forces, providing training, intelligence, and
logistical support from behind the battlefront.
The parsing of words is meant to differentiate the latest Islamic State
conflicts from earlier wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when thousands of
U.S. troops were battling the enemy in small units and in close combat.
Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that U.S.
troops are not going to war to substitute for the local forces, but are
trying "to get them powerful enough that they can expel ISIL with our
support. And when we provide that support, we put people in harm's way.
We ask them to conduct combat actions."
Aren't special operations forces in direct combat in Iraq or Syria?
A: Probably. But the Pentagon doesn't talk about the often highly
classified operations that U.S. commandos -- including Army Delta Force
or Navy SEALs -- are doing no matter where they are. And Army
special forces Ñ or Green Berets Ñ are in many war-torn countries
providing training and assistance, because that's one of their key
In some cases, U.S. officials have acknowledged special operations
missions to capture or kill high-value targets or to try and rescue
But those are not considered "boots on the ground" because they often
move in and out quickly, and stay for short periods of time.
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