[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 
days ago).

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!

dan handelman
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,
wouldn't it?

    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
    other assistance.

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
    combat missions.

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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