U.S. military personnel supporting Iraqi security forces are reportedly shedding their standard-issue camouflage for jet-black uniforms in their ongoing campaign to recapture the northern city of Mosul, Military Times reports.
While the all-black gear is standard for most special operators, photos on social media appear to show regular military advisers donning obsidian uniforms resembling those often worn by elite members of the Iraqi military, the Counter Terrorism Service’s “Golden Division,” according to Newsweek.
The decision — likely made by individual unit commanders to better suit the conditions downrange in Syria and Iraq — allows U.S. military personnel to better blend in with local forces and complicates the targeting of American troops by ISIS fighters.
But that doesn’t mean we’ll see nameless, faceless American troops melting into crowded markets in their block-by-block campaign against the terror group, per Military Times:
Coalition forces, the officials said, abide by longstanding law-of-war regulations that stipulate military personnel must distinguish themselves from civilians.
Typically, that's done using uniform insignia, identifiable from a distance as outlined by the 1949 Geneva Conventions, said Jeffrey Addicott, who heads the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas. Before retiring from the Army, he was the senior legal adviser for all of its special forces units. But over the last 15 years, he noted, the lines have blurred. Many of America's adversaries — ISIS especially — don't ascribe to the same standards for war fighting, and the U.S. has adapted accordingly.
"In modern warfare," Addicott said, "our uniforms have subdued identification so as to protect our soldiers from enemy attack. They can cover and conceal better."
Iraqi security forces have been locked in a bloody six-month campaign to dislodge ISIS from its last major stronghold in the war-torn country. Several hundred members of the 82nd Airborne’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team are reportedly headed to Mosul “on a non-enduring temporary mission to provide additional ‘advise and assist’ support” local forces.