Navy Seal Killed In Iraq ID’d; US Vows To Strengthen Fight Against Islamic State
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Aired 5/4/16 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Navy Seal Killed In Iraq ID'd; US Vows To Strengthen Fight Against Islamic State
Lolita Baldor, reporter, Associated Press
An international coalition leading the military campaign against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq agreed Wednesday to accelerate their contributions but did not publicly specify what those would be. The group also called on Iraqi leaders to reconcile political differences.
A day after a U.S. Navy SEAL was killed in small arms fire with Islamic State forces, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that as the war intensifies, "these risks will continue."
Carter identified the SEAL as Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Keating IV, whose family had confirmed his death on Tuesday. Carter said he regretted the loss but stressed that combat risks in Iraq are unavoidable.
"Our overall approach is to enable local forces to do the fighting ... but that doesn't mean we aren't going to do any fighting at all," Carter said. "We are putting these people at risk every day," including the aircrews who are flying strike missions daily over Iraq and Syria, "and, tragically, losses will occur," he added.
Other U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details not yet publicly released, said that Keating, 31, and his SEAL advisory team were moving between Kurdish Peshmerga units when they got caught in a firefight with Islamic State forces that had created a breach in Peshmerga lines.
Other U.S. officials said Keating was in a group of SEALs who were coming to the aid of a second U.S. military adviser group pinned down by Islamic State fire at or near a Peshmerga command post.
Carter and his counterparts from 11 coalition countries met behind closed doors at the headquarters of U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, where Carter was presiding at a change-of-command ceremony Tuesday when news of Keating's death reached him.
In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the group reaffirmed its support "to further accelerate and reinforce the success of our partners on the ground and for the deployment of additional enabling capabilities in the near term."
"We called on all of Iraq's political leaders to commit themselves to the legal and peaceful reconciliation of political differences in order to confront the nation's challenges and to remain united against the common enemy," they said.
The statement was not specific about what additional contributions would be offered, beyond citing resources to support the Iraqi military campaign and "various forms" of help to a civilian effort to stabilize and reconstruct areas of Anbar province devastated by war damage.
Carter expressed condolences over Keating's death, which is the third U.S. combat death in Iraq since U.S. forces returned there in mid-2014 to help the Iraqi government regain the wide swaths of territory captured by the Islamic State.
Keating was a former Phoenix high school star distance runner and the grandson of an Arizona financier involved in the 1980s savings and loan scandal.
He went on to run track at Indiana University, attend the Naval Academy and become a Navy SEAL based out of Coronado.
"Like so many brave Americans who came before him, Charlie sacrificed his life in honorable service to our nation for a cause greater than self-interest, which we can never truly repay," U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered all state flags be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset Wednesday in honor of Keating, who also was the cousin of former Olympic swimming champion Gary Hall Jr.
According to the Arizona Republic, Keating was known as C-4 because he had the same name as three generations before him.
Keating's grandfather, Charles H. Keating Jr., who died in 2014 at age 90, was the notorious financier who served prison time for his role in the costliest savings and loan failure of the 1980s.
The scandal also shook the political world. Five senators who received campaign donations from Charles Keating Jr. — McCain, Democrat Alan Cranston of California, Democrat John Glenn of Ohio, Democrat Donald W. Riegel Jr. of Michigan and Democrat Dennis DeConcini of Arizona — were accused of impropriety for appealing to regulators on Keating's behalf in 1987.
Keating's grandfather was sent to prison when Charlie was a small child and other children reportedly made fun of him.
"What happened in the past, I really don't care. I'm really close to him," the younger Keating told the Republic in May 2004 when he ran in the Class 4A state track and field championships in suburban Mesa, Arizona, and his grandfather watched him compete for the first time.
A 2004 graduate of Phoenix's Arcadia High School, Keating was city and region champion in the 1,600-meter run as a sophomore, junior and senior.
Rob Reniewicki, Keating's former track coach at Arcadia, said he has kept it touch with him through Facebook over the years, and he is heartbroken by the news.
"He was a tremendous athlete, a tremendous person. I'm devastated. I'm crushed. I'm trying to hold myself together," Reniewicki told Phoenix TV station KTVK.
Reniewicki said Keating was planning to get married in November.
At Indiana University, where his father was a three-time All-America swimmer from 1974-77 and finished fifth in the breaststroke at the 1976 Olympics, Keating ran cross country and track from 2004-06.
Keating was a member of the 2004-05 Hoosiers team that was Big Ten Conference runner-up in both the indoor and outdoor seasons. He competed in the mile run.
"When Charlie left IU to enlist and try to become a SEAL, I don't think it really surprised any of us," said Robert Chapman, professor of kinesiology at IU Bloomington, who served as Indiana men's cross country coach from 1998-2007. "You could tell he was a guy who wanted to be the best and find out what he was made of, and serving as special operations forces for his country embodied that."
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