WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Friday promised that American forces would participate in more raids like the rescue mission that left an elite Delta Force commando dead. But Carter insisted those plans will not violate President Obama’s pledge of no American “boots-on-the-ground” in the campaign against the Islamic State.

A day after the U.S.-Kurdish raid that freed 70 hostages from an Islamic State prison in Hawija, Iraq, Carter portrayed the dead commando, Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, as a hero.

Wheeler, 39, a native of Oklahoma, was the first American to be killed in Iraq by hostile forces in almost four years. With the exit of most U.S. troops completed, Obama declared a formal end to the United States’ 11-year combat mission in August 2011.

When he ordered the first of 3,000 troops back to Iraq in June 2014, Obama maintained that the Americans’ assignment was only to train Iraqi soldiers, not to engage in ground combat.

Carter maintained that position while at the same time warning the Islamic State to expect more surprise attacks by U.S. commandos.

Saying “we’ll do more raids,” Carter explained: “It doesn’t represent us assuming a combat role. It represents a continuation of our advise-and-assist mission.”

One of Wheeler’s representatives in Congress, Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, wasn’t buying Carter’s parsing of meaning.

“While the (Obama) administration declared an official end to our combat mission in Iraq in 2011, Oklahomans and our nation are reminded today that combat is still a reality for our all-volunteer force in the Middle East,” Inhofe said.

The likelihood that Americans would engage in combat has been a frequent topic of discussion almost from the moment the United States began bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq in August 2014.

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