Late Wednesday, the Defense Department identified the soldier killed Tuesday in Afghanistan.
He was Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock, 30, and he died of wounds suffered when the enemy attacked his unit with small arms fire in Helmand province.
It is understandable that Barack Obama, Sgt. McClintock’s nominal commander-in-chief, won’t hold a press conference to announce his death, much less blubber in public over another brave American’s passing on the battlefield. Which is not to say it would be out of line if he did. Rather, that’s no who Obama is or where his priorities lie.
A more pressing matter is whether Sgt. McClintock’s survivors will receive the benefits historically paid out to the families of heroic men and women who died in combat.
So far it doesn’t look good. In a news conference yesterday, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook was asked repeatedly by reporters whether U.S. forces in Marjah, where McClintock died, had been engaged in combat. Cook dodged the question.
CNSNews has a video of the presser and some of the back-and-forth:
“Could you explain the context of what’s going on in Marjah that required U.S. combat presence given that combat mission is over?” Cook was asked.
“Well as you know, we’re conducting ‘train, advise and assist’ in Helmand province,” he replied.
Cook was unable to clarify the mission involving the U.S. special operations troops and their Afghan counterparts.
“I cannot tell you with specificity at this point exactly what they were doing there at this particular time, other than this was an operation that was consistent with that ‘train, advise and assist’ mission.”
He went to on stress that “Afghanistan is a dangerous place” and that the “fight” was still underway in Helmand and other parts of the country.
“The U.S. forces that are there are doing what they can to provide support – training, advice, assistance to the Afghan forces as they take the lead in this fight.”
Asked again what type of mission was underway when the firefight broke out, Cook said he did not want to jump the gun while awaiting more details.
“But these U.S. special operators are, as we’ve discussed before, allowed to engage, and train, advise and assist their special operations counterparts–”
“In active combat?” a reporter interjected.
“–they’ve been in Helmand province, providing this kind of support in the past,” Cook continued.
“Is it safe to say that the combat mission continues in Afghanistan?” a reporter asked.
“It is safe to say that Afghanistan is a dangerous place, and that the U.S. forces that are providing assistance to the Afghans are in harm’s way when they’re there. We’ve seen that, it’s been a painful reminder the last few weeks,” he said.
Shorter — make that more candid — Peter Cook: The combat mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014 because that’s when Obama said it ended. To concede now that combat is ongoing would be a stain on Obama’s record and, worse, expose him for the liar and incompetent leader he is. So officially, no, McClintock was not killed in combat. And, as with the case of Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, who was killed in October during a commando raid on an ISIS-held prison in northern Iraq, no benefits will accrue to Sgt. McClintock’s grieving relatives.