White House: Navy SEAL Killed in Combat Was Not in Combat Mission

May 3, 2016

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday that the U.S. Navy SEAL killed earlier in northern Iraq died in combat but was not on a combat mission.

The Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday that Islamic State forces killed a U.S. Navy SEAL by direct fire in Northern Iraq, the third American serviceman to be killed since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve.

During the briefing, a White House reporter asked Earnest about the extent of combat for U.S. troops in Iraq.

"I think the public is just trying to understand exactly what our troops are doing there and to what extent we are involved in, combat, war, danger, a high likely of fatalities or this much more benign-sounding train-and-assist posture?" the reporter asked.

"I don't mean to make it sound benign because it's not, it's dangerous. What I am trying to do, though, is trying to be as precise as possible with you and the American public about what exactly our commander-in-chief has asked our service members to do," Earnest said. "Secretary [Ash] Carter, earlier today has described his death as a combat death. That's accurate. This is an individual who is not in a combat mission, but he was in a dangerous place and his position came under attack. He was armed, trained, and prepared to defend himself.

"Unfortunately, he was killed. He was killed in combat but that was not a part of his mission. His mission was specifically to offer advice and assistance to those Iraqi forces that were fighting for their own country."

Earnest has frequently denied that the troops in Iraq are in on combat mission but instead on a 'train, advise, and assist' mission.