March 25, 2016
It was supposed to be a secret where these 200 Marines were headed. And yet the terrorists had them in their sights.
Three days before ISIS militants killed Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin, the U.S. military notified his family—and the families of roughly 200 Marines—that their loved ones had moved off the USS Kearsarge, deployed to the Persian Gulf, to somewhere in northern Iraq. The letter didn’t say exactly where he had been deployed two weeks earlier, or why.
But while his family and the American public were largely being kept in the dark, members of the self-proclaimed Islamic State were acquiring detailed intelligence on the movements of Cardin, the second U.S. service member killed in Iraq, and his fellow Marines.
As it turned out, those Marines were on no ordinary deployment. Cardin and his fellow Marines were deployed near the front lines of what is expected be the biggest battle of the war, two officials told The Daily Beast, tasked to launch a mission that signaled the U.S. was again furtively expanding its mission in Iraq.
Regardless, U.S. military commanders in Iraq decided it was not safe to tell the American public.
“We made the decision a month ago to announce this on the 20th” of March, Army Col. Steven Warren, a spokesman for the U.S. effort in Iraq, told reporters Monday. “We didn’t want to make the announcement until they were fully operational. They became fully operational on Friday.”
All the while, helicopters flew overhead of a new, makeshift base delivering four artillery units and a company of soldiers, all for ISIS to see and then attack. The U.S. military believes ISIS targeted its troops, the officials said, after watching them build the base.
Cardin, of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, died Saturday when an ISIS-fired rocket landed in the base he had arrived at just days earlier. Cardin, 27, of Temecula, California, was killed in his bunker; another eight troops were injured, three seriously.
The circumstances of Cardin’s death and deployment have become a familiar, disturbing pattern in this war—one where the U.S. military does not reveal what it is asking of troops until it has to, usually when a service member is killed. Up until Cardin’s death, the U.S. military said it troops were only on heavily fortified bases; that its forces were not part of any offensive operations; that they were properly secured; and that frontline troops are counted in publicly released tallies of those deployed in Iraq.
But Saturday’s attack revealed that none of that was accurate.