President Obama's team is 'diminishing the service' of U.S. troops fighting the Islamic State for political purposes, according to an Alaska Republican.

"The president and White House spokesman Josh Earnest need to level with the American people and tell the truth about what our brave troops are doing in the Middle East — they are in combat, it's not a 'small number,' and they are doing their duty trying to keep our country safe," freshman Sen. Dan Sullivan said Wednesday.

Sullivan was responding to the White House's contention that the third American servicemember to die in anti-Islamic State operations, a Navy SEAL killed in northern Iraq this week, was fighting the terrorists, but not in a combat mission. "This was an individual who was not in a combat mission, but he was in a dangerous place," Earnest said Wednesday.

The fallen SEAL, Charlie Keating IV, was assisting Kurdish forces near Irbil, Iraq when about 125 members of the Islamic State broke through the Kurdish lines and came into direct conflict with U.S. military advisers about two miles behind the front lines. Keating was part of the quick reaction force sent to help the advisers. "He was armed, trained, and prepared to defend himself," Earnest said. "Unfortunately, he was killed. And he was killed in combat. But that was not part of his mission."

U.S. airstrikes following Keating's death killed about 60 terrorists in the area.

"The White House continues to diminish the service and sacrifice of our troops serving in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere by peddling the fiction that they are not engaged in combat," Sullivan said.