Defining Combat

After insisting raids like the one in Iraq that resulted in the death of Army MSgt. Joshua Wheeler do not constitute combat, Defense Secretary Ash Carter reversed course, ending a Pentagon press conference Friday by saying “this is combat.” Carter told reporters the US is likely to conduct more raids in Iraq in an effort to deliver a “lasting defeat” to ISIS. “We have this capability. It is a great American strength,” he said. But participating in such raids “doesn’t represent assuming a combat role, it represents a continuation of our advise and assist mission,” he said. “When we find opportunities to do things that will effectively prosecute the campaign, we’re going to do that,” Carter said. Wheeler, a special operations soldier, was killed after the Peshmerga unit he was advising came under fire in a raid to free roughly 70 hostages facing mass execution, Carter said. The original plan did not call for Americans to be involved, Carter said, but when the firefight began, Wheeler “ran to the sound of the gun.” Carter declined to describe Wheeler’s actions in more detail, saying that “because this is combat, things are complicated.” But he said the incident underscores the risk? that US troops face in the fight against ISIS.