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Since the first U.S. combat death in the fight against the Islamic State last month, the administration and its critics have been at odds about whether U.S. troops are back in combat, and how combat is even defined.

The White House has stressed that, while U.S. forces are in dangerous places, they are not in a combat mission that will put them on the front lines. Critics, however, say that every inch of Iraq and Syria is a war zone where U.S. forces face danger.

The distinction has political overtones. If the administration says the U.S. is on a combat mission in Syria and Iraq, President Obama would appear to be restarting a war he promised to end.

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