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Pentagon makes troops in fight against ISIS eligible for medals

Pentagon makes troops in fight against ISIS eligible for medals
© Greg Nash

Pentagon officials on Thursday announced a fix that would make U.S. troops deployed to Iraq in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) eligible for certain medals.

Officials have decided to treat the new mission in Iraq as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S. fight against terrorism, for the purpose of awarding honors and medals, according to a report.

“Troops deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Enduring Freedom are eligible for the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal,” Army Maj. James Brindle, a Pentagon spokesman, told the Military Times

The Hill first reported Wednesday that troops in Iraq as part of the anti-ISIS fight were not eligible for certain medals because the Pentagon had not officially designated their mission as a military campaign.

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That meant that the roughly 1,700 troops now serving as “advisers” could not receive the Iraq Campaign Medal, an award for troops deployed to Iraq before Dec. 31, 2011.

Nor were they eligible for the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary or Service medals, which are for troops supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, typically referred to as the Afghanistan War. 

The new designation allows troops to earn the Global War on Terrorism medals, but not the war campaign medals given for service in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Veterans groups had expressed outrage that troops in Iraq were not eligible for some medals before the Pentagon fix, noting that the advisers could still find themselves in combat.

While the Pentagon will treat the current anti-ISIS mission as part of Operation Enduring Freedom for medal purposes, it is unclear whether it will formally be considered part of that operation for other issues.

The current Iraq mission focused on ISIS still has no official name from the Pentagon.

The White House has used the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force used to justify the Afghanistan War in support of the military action in Iraq. 

Some lawmakers have questioned that decision, noting that the language explicitly justified action against al Qaeda and associated forces. They say al Qaeda and ISIS have split and note that the U.S. has expanded its fight to airstrikes in Syria.

Lawmakers in both parties have called for a debate on a new authorization of military force against ISIS.

This story was updated at 6:28 p.m.