'Over 5,000 US soldiers killed since 9/11' – Marine Corps general
In the 15 years since the 9/11 tragedy, which itself saw over 3,000 people killed and spawned America's war on terror, a further 5,000 Americans have been killed in military action beyond US borders, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford has said.
In a Memorial Day speech at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff praised the 40 million Americans who have served in US forces since George Washington's times.
"Some supported the birth of the revolution, more recently, others have answered the call to confront terrorism," Dunford said.
"Along the way, more than 1 million Americans have given the last full measure," he stated, listing the conflicts of the past century that have claimed American lives – all of them on foreign land.
"Over 100,000 in World War I. Over 400,000 in World War II. Almost 40,000 in Korea. Over 58,000 in Vietnam. And over 5,000 have been killed in action since 9/11," he stated.
"Today is a reminder of the real cost of freedom, the real cost of security, and that's the human cost,” Dunford concluded.
The solemn speech in remembrance of the lost American lives comes as the US boosts its presence in conflict zones, even those where "no boots on the ground" were earlier promised.
Last month the Pentagon announced that the US will deploy 217 troops and Apache helicopters to Iraq as part of operations against jihadist group Islamic State. The additional troops will bring the number of US soldiers in Iraq to 4,087.
The US-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against IS in Iraq and Syria since mid-2014. But the US involvement in Syria began without the approval of the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.
Despite the US president's 2013 promise of not putting any “American boots on the ground in Syria,” Obama confirmed plans late last month to dramatically increase the American troop presence in Syria by deploying an additional 250 personnel to "support local forces fighting ISIL," bringing the total to 300.
Obama, who won the presidency back in 2008 and pledged to bring peace to the Middle East, first broke his promise of no “American boots on the ground in Syria” when he sent 50 US special operations forces to Syria last year. He stressed that the move was a “counterterrorism” measure rather than a step closer to a ground invasion. His decision raised concerns over the previous failures of the US train-and-equip program that dealt with unreliable opposition fighters, however.
The Pentagon gave up on the training part of the project in October last year, after senior Obama administration officials admitted that the US had only trained a handful of fighters, despite the program’s $500 million budget. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said at the time, though, that US-provided equipment allowed local forces to "make significant gains" against IS.
It was revealed in September that one group of trainees had surrendered one quarter of their US-supplied weapons, ammunition, and vehicles in exchange for safe passage through territory held by another rebel group affiliated with Al-Qaeda.