The Islamic State attack on Kurdish forces in northern Iraq that killed U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Keating was a surprise that, if anticipated, might have turned out differently, a Pentagon spokesman said Thursday.
Thanks to Keating’s heroic sacrifice and his leadership of a local Christian militia’s defense against the attack, ISIS was stopped before they could successfully break through Iraqi lines.
The three shorts videos — released by an Assyrian Christian militia called the Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU) to The Guardian — purportedly shows part of the firefight at ultimately claimed Keating’s life (warning: there’s harsh language used)
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 ISIS 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 is 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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article