Posted on May 6, 2016 by Editorial Staff in Military, Politics
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook. Photo: DoD/Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz
WASHINGTON,— The Islamic State attack on Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq that killedU.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Keating was a surprise that, if anticipated, might have turned out differently, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.
Islamic State militantsattacked Kurdish peshmerga forces on multiple fronts in northern Iraq last Tuesday, breaching their defenses and briefly taking over a town, military sources said.
“Obviously, had we had the forces there, been able to see this attack coming, they would have responded differently to it,” Peter Cook, the Pentagon press secretary, said.
“Perhaps this could have been avoided. That’s certainly something that we’re looking at carefully. This particular attack was not anticipated and we were forced to respond.”
Keating is the third U.S. service member to be killed in combat in Iraq since U.S. forces returned there in 2014.
Keating was a member of what the military calls a quick-reaction force that was called to the scene of the gun battle in which a small U.S. military advisory team had already become involved. The Islamic State force managed to penetrate the Kurds’ lines but ultimately was pushed out of the area.
The U.S. military’s main spokesman in Baghdad, Col. Steve Warren, said Wednesday that it was unclear how IS managed to assemble an attacking force of an estimated 125 fighters, plus vehicles, without being detected prior to the assault.
“You can’t observe every inch of earth every moment in the day,” Warren said. “There’s not enough eyeballs out there to watch it all, anyways.” He said the militants were initially successful by surprising the Kurdish force but ultimately were beaten back.
“So it was a failed attack, but certainly, they were able to martial and deploy a force that surprised the Peshmerga forces,” Warren said. The Peshmerga are a Kurdish militia.
Cook was asked whether Defense Secretary Ash Carter was looking for ways to make the U.S. advisory mission less dangerous.
“We had a fatality of a U.S. service member and that requires hard questions,” Cook said. “And so, we are looking at the situation in terms of force protection.” He added: “And of course we’ll be reassessing force protection going forward.”
Since the United States intervened to blunt Islamic State’s advance on Erbil in August 2014, the peshmerga have driven the militants back in the north. The militants are rarely able to penetrate Kurdish defenses.