Gates: White House Doing Disservice to Troops By Avoiding Term ‘Combat’

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said Thursday that the Obama administration was doing a "disservice" to American troops by avoiding the term "combat" to characterize the fighting American military members are in against the Islamic State."

Ever since American forces have been deployed to fight ISIS, the White House has said that they are not there in a combat capacity, even though three Americans have been killed fighting the terror group.

"Why do you think this administration refuses to talk about troops being in combat? That it's just advise and consent when we have American servicemen being killed as recently as two weeks ago overseas?" co-host Willie Geist asked. "Why not call these what they are, which is combat troops?"

"I think that it is incredibly unfortunate not to speak openly about what's going on. American troops are in action. They are being killed. They are in combat and the semantic backflips to avoid using the term ‘combat’ is a disservice to those who are out there putting their lives on the line," Gates said. "I have a feeling it's got everything to do with the politics of, ‘We've ended combat operations in Iraq. It's over. We're done. We're out of there.’ We're all of a sudden back there and to pretend that, and even Secretary Carter has said these troops are in combat.

"So why the White House can't bring itself to acknowledge what everybody in the world knows is unfortunate and particularly in the message that it sends to those folks out there on the ground."

"If you're in a firefight, you're in combat?" Geist asked.

"I'd say so," Gates said.

Gates and fellow ex-Obama Pentagon chiefs Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel have been critical of the White House's policy toward the military since leaving their posts.