President Obama used to nuance it all the time and tiptoe around the reality, which was that US forces are in Iraq, and they are fighting, former Pentagon official Michael Maloof told RT.
The US military says two of its soldiers were killed in combat operations in Iraq. According to the Pentagon, the soldiers died in the north of the country on Sunday, and five others were injured. They were taking part in operations against ISIS.
The statement did not specify the cause of death, merely saying it was not due to enemy fire. However, ISIS contradicted that claim, saying it killed four US troops in a rocket strike in the city of Tal Afar, situated to the west of Mosul, where anti-ISIS operations are ongoing.
RT: We’re hearing two very different versions of what happened. ISIS says it killed four Americans; the US says the deaths were not due to any contact with the enemy. What do you read into this?
Michael Maloof: It was probably in the area of Tal Afar, very close to fighting. The Americans who were probably killed were probably Special Forces, who were invariably getting into the fight, even though there are there ‘to train and advise.’They inevitably get into the fight, and you have a lot of close encounters. It could be someone from behind them, or, as ISIS reports, they killed four Americans. I think you can’t exclude the possibility the US does not want to give ISIS the public relations boost of having killed four Americans at this point. We may never know the full story at this point. I might point out the report is preliminary.
RT: The US statement said, specifically, these soldiers were involved in combat operations. Up until now, the US role in Operation Inherent Resolve has always been described as ‘advise and assist.’ Have they simply dropped the pretense?
MM: Yes, they dropped that pretense in the later days of the Obama administration. When you have US troops deployed in a war zone and they engage in combat, they are in combat. That is the prevalent thinking and feeling among the troops and the soldiers in the hierarchy in the Pentagon itself. Obama used to nuance it all the time and tiptoed around what was reality. But the reality is: they are there, they are fighting. And because they are in an advisory role, invariably they are going to have to take over in some cases and lead the charge, because the troops may not be sufficiently trained to do that. Or they may not be able to carry on because of the withering enemy fire. This had happened before where Americans got too far out in front and got killed, and it won’t be the last time.
RT: If it’s true ISIS managed to carry out a deadly rocket strike against American forces outside Mosul, as they’re claiming. Would you suggest that this is a setback in the liberation of the areas around Mosul?
MM: No, I would not. It’s just that some soldiers got too close. And whether it was from behind, or whether it was from the front. It shows Iraqi troops do still need training and often leadership. For the Special Forces, that is what they are trained to do, that is their job. There have been many instances where some SEALs, for example, got killed, because they were right up there on the front lines, and they were directing not only the troops, but also air support, and sometimes they get too close.
It’s intriguing that ISIS made these claims. And all of a sudden the Pentagon is saying: ‘Well this is all under investigation; it was not from enemy fire.’ That suggests to me they don’t want to give ISIS the benefit of the victory no matter how small.
RT: Six years after the US declared the Iraq War over, there are still more than 5,000 American soldiers based there. Do you expect the US to remain there for many years to come?
MM: Absolutely. In fact, I think they are going to be building a base up there near Mosul. That is the indication I have had from some people I have talked to. Yes, the US is going to stay this time. They probably will stay – just like we did in Germany after WWII and Japan. Or we’re going to witness once again what happened back in 2011, in which all US troops were pulled out, and then ISIS invaded.
Look what happened in June of 2014, when ISIS attacked Mosul and occupied the city. They captured more than 13,000 troops and took all of their gear, all of their equipment that they had received from the US. It was a bonanza for ISIS. Then they went ahead and slaughtered these troops as a consequence. The training has to be maintained. If they were that good, the US wouldn’t be there up near the front lines giving them advice and training right on the front lines – it is just illogical to think otherwise that they still need the assistance, they need the training and the leadership.