WASHINGTON â€” The Pentagon acknowledged on Monday that it had established a small base in northern Iraq staffed solely by American Marines, a disclosure that followed an Islamic State rocket attack over the weekend that killed one Marine and wounded several others.
The White House has contended that the military is not conducting a ground combat mission in Iraq. But the new outpost has long-range artillery that can help Iraqi forces as they try to reclaim land from the Islamic State.
The base was attacked again on Monday, the Pentagon said. A small group of fighters, who appeared to be focused on a nearby Iraqi base, struck the outpost with â€œsmall-arms fire.â€�â€œIt was not close enough to do any damage,â€� said Col. Steve Warren, the United Statesâ€™ spokesman in Iraq, adding that no Marines were wounded. The Marines returned fire, killing at least two Islamic State fighters, Colonel Warren said.The outpost had been kept a secret because the Pentagon wanted to give the Marines a chance to â€œbecome fully operationalâ€� and â€œready to fight,â€� Colonel Warren said.
In a conference call with reporters, Colonel Warren said the Marines were not combat forces because they were positioned at the outpost to provide â€œforce protectionâ€� to American military advisers working alongside Iraqi troops.
â€œThey wonâ€™t kind of go off and conduct any type of mission on their own,â€� he said, referring to the Marines. â€œThey donâ€™t really have that capability anyways. Theyâ€™re just providing coverage, right? Theyâ€™re providing fire support coverage for the several thousand Iraqi soldiers and the several hundred advisers.
â€�The Pentagon said that 100 to 200 Marines were at the outpost, and that they were from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. They â€œbegan moving into Iraq within the last couple of weeks,â€� according to a statement from the public affairs office of Operation Inherent Resolve, the name of the American mission in Iraq.
Critics of the administration contend that it does not want to say the forces in Iraq are â€œin combatâ€� because it would run counter to President Obamaâ€™s assertion that he ended combat missions there in 2010.
A White House spokeswoman, Emily Horne, declined to comment, saying a statement from the administration in October about the matter â€œstill applies.
â€�That month, the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said that â€œit helps to differentiate between the train, advise and assist mission that our military personnel are currently undertaking from the long-term, sustained ground combat operations that U.S. military personnel were involved in starting in 2003 and going all the way up to 2010 or 2011.
â€�The Marine killed on Saturday in Iraq was Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, 27, from Temecula, Calif.Two rockets were fired on the base during the attack, Colonel Warren said. â€œOne landed harmlessly, and the other one, unfortunately, did not,â€� he said.
The Marines returned fire, although it was not clear whether any enemy fighters were killed, Colonel Warren said. Several of the Marines who were wounded suffered scratches and returned to duty. Others were taken to a military hospital in Germany.
Sergeant Cardin was the second American service member killed in Iraq since the United States began operations against the Islamic State in 2014.
Mr. Obama acknowledged the episode on Monday during a news conference with President RaÃºl Castro in Havana. â€œI just wanted to give my thoughts and prayers to the family there and those who have been injured,
â€� Mr. Obama said. â€œItâ€™s a reminder that even as we embark on this historic visit, there are U.S. armed service members who are sacrificing each and every day on behalf of our freedom and our safety. So Iâ€™m grateful to them.â€�
Surayi ikufotokoza mwatsatanetsatane nkhani ya Musa kuyambira pamene adabadwa, m'nthawi ya ufumu wa Farawo. Ndipo panthawiyo Farawo amapha ana achimuna a ma Isiraeli poopera kuti mwa iwo mungadzatuluke Mneneri amene angathetse ufumu wake. Koma mwa mphamvu za Mulungu, Musa sadaphedwe. Ndipo m'malo mwake adaleredwa mnyumba ya Farawo mpaka pamene adachoka ...