The Pentagon defended its decision on Thursday to risk the lives of U.S. troops to rescue Iraqi hostages and denied that the mission represents a new era involving ground combat operations against the Islamic State.

On Thursday, U.S. commandos participated in an operation in Hawija, Iraq, to save about 70 Iraqi hostages, 22 of whom were Iraqi Security Force fighters. In the joint raid with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, one U.S. service member died from a gunshot wound after being transported to Irbil for medical treatment.

This represents the first U.S. combat death in the fight against the Islamic State.

The administration has been clear that the U.S. mission in Iraq is purely to train and advise Iraqi forces. President Obama has said repeatedly that U.S. forces in Iraq are not in combat.

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