Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

KPBS Midday Edition

Navy Seal Killed In Iraq ID'd; US Vows To Strengthen Fight Against Islamic State

Charles Keating IV is pictured in this undated photo.
Charles Keating IV is pictured in this undated photo.

Navy Seal Killed In Iraq ID'd; US Vows To Strengthen Fight Against Islamic State
Navy Seal Killed In Iraq ID'd; US Vows To Strengthen Fight Against Islamic State GUEST:Lolita Baldor, reporter, Associated Press

Our top story, the US military has confirmed that a Coronado-based Navy SEAL was killed in Iraq on Tuesday. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class , Charles Keating IV was shot by ISIS fighters. The 31-year-old Navy SEAL is the third US service member killed in combat, since the US launched its mission against ISIS in 2014. This morning I spoke with Lolita Baldor . Thank you for joining us. Absolutely. How do US officials say Charles Keating IV got involved in the firefight with ISIS? According to the US officials, the Navy Petty Officer. first class was one of a team of quick reactions force is what they call it, that went to rescue US forces who were with the Kurdish Peshmerga units . They were advising and assisting, the team went to talk to the tran 20 forces. The forces called for help when they came under attack. Petty Officer. Keating was one of the special ops forces who went to the rescue. Do we know if ISIS is starting a new push in northern Iraq? They've been losing some ground in and around northern Iraq. According to the military, when they feel pressure and start to lose ground, they are prone to launching these high-profile attacks. This is one of those, where they gather up a lot of people, a lot of vehicle borne IED's and try to go after this particular town, where the US forces were.'s back We were told military were advising locals. Are they engaged in combat missions? At times, they are. Their main job is to advise and assist the Iraqi forces. There are indeed, special ops forces that are in Iraq, they are doing special missions, we don't care a lot about them. The Pentagon doesn't like to talk about what they're doing. As the US ramps up the number of forces in Iraq, they are getting closer to the front lines. How many forces are in Iraq, at this time? Right now, there's probably close to 4000, the president has authorized a bit more, about 217 more, several weeks ago. The Pentagon is cagey and how it counts its forces in Iraq. Overall, there are probably more than 5000 there, they don't technically count some of them, because some are there on temporary duty or more limited duties. They don't technically count them. There are more than 5000 Americans in Iraq. And the number of US troops in serious going up as well? It is. It's going from about 50 It's going from about 52 key about 300. Those forces are not based in Syria, they are based outside of Syria, possibly in Turkey, Iraq, other places, and they move in and out of Syria. The White House keeps insisting that there are not end there will not be US boots on the ground. How can they keep saying that? They shouldn't and they can't. What they are trying to do is convey a message, they are just doing it badly. The idea that there are no boots on the ground is just wrong. There are boots on the ground, there are advisors, commandos, special ops forces. They are there on the ground. What they are trying to say, by using that phrase, is that there are no large US military units doing ground warfare in Iraq and Syria. They are trying to separate, despite from what the public is familiar with from the previous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is this really a distinction when it comes to the forces that are actually on the ground, so to speak in Iraq and Syria? Yes. If you look at the thousands, tens of thousands of US forces that went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade, in the aftermath of 9/11, those forces were actively involved in large ground combat battles with the Taliban, Al Qaeda, they were actively in combat, every day. These forces are focusing more on advising and assisting, there's a much smaller number. While there are some forces that are engaged in intermittent combat here and there, it's not the same types of large-scale battles. I've been speaking with reporter Lolita Baldor. Thank you so much.

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.

AP: Q&A: When Is A Boot On The Ground Not A Boot On The Ground?

"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."