The United States Special Forces elements currently stationed in Iraq are engaged in fighting against the Islamic State group, several Kurdish Iraqi fighters have told the British newspaper The Guardian, contradicting President Barack Obama’s assertion that no U.S. personnel were in direct combat with the extremist group.
According to The Guardian, none of the fighters with Kurdish Iraqi army, known as Peshmerga, were willing to publish their photos or video footage for fear of dismissal, but they allowed the newspaper's crew to watch the video and see the images on their cellphones.
A 29-year-old Peshmerga fighter named Peshawa showed a video through his cellphone filmed just after dawn on Sept. 11, showing four Western-looking men in a battle against the Islamic State group in Iraq. “These are the Americans,” Peshawa said referring to U.S. soldiers. He added that such footage and other asserts that Washington has been involved directly in the fight against the Islamic State group.
President Obama announced in June last year the deployment of 3,500 U.S. special forces to Iraq in order to “advise and train” Kurdish fighters in their fight against the extremist group, according to the Pentagon, but denied that this was part of a boots-on-the-ground operation. “The joke going around here is there are no boots on the ground because they’re all wearing sneakers,” an unnamed western volunteer with the peshmerga, told the Guardian.
Major Loqman Mohammed with the Peshmerga force showed another video, dated 11 June, where a U.S. soldier was seen wearing the uniform and badge of a Kurdish counter-terrorism unit and walking with two dozen Peshmerga fighters after several hours of fighting with Islamic State group militants in the village of Wastana and Saddam settlement.
“They fight and they even fight ahead of the Peshmerga. They won’t allow anyone to take photos of them, but they take photos of everyone, ” Karwan Hama Tata, a Peshmerga volunteer, told The Guardian reporter after showing him another video of two U.S. soldiers in the middle of an operation with other Kurdish fighters.
In an Oct. 28 report by Bloomberg, U.S. and Kurdish officials, not authorized to speak about the matter, said that he U.S. was running an operations center in Irbil city staffed by a special operations task force whose work is so classified its name is a state secret.
The Guardian said that when asked about the videos and the testimonies of the Kurdish fighters, the U.S. Central Command in Baghdad said: “No U.S. or coalition SOF [special operations forces] were engaged in any of these events you listed.” It added “we have no reports of any coalition advise and assist teams becoming engaged during the actions you referenced.”
Last month, Reuters reported the Obama administration was considering the deployment of special forces to Syria to “advise moderate Syrian opposition fighters for the first time and, potentially, to help call in U.S. air strikes”, one official had said.
The recent reports cast doubt over the statements by the Pentagon and the White House as well as Obama’s public assertions since he was first elected in 2008 that he did not want to involve the U.S. in wars in the middle east.
In fact, one of Obama’s presidential campaign promises was to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has yet to deliver on that promise and in fact have scaled back on the withdrawal of U.S. personnel from the two war-torn nations.
Article from TeleSur