Tag Archive: Islamic State

The Pentagon has said U.S. special operations troops launched a raid on January 8th in eastern Syria. Unnamed U.S. officials said the raid was carried out by the Expeditionary Task Force and was aimed at capturing top ISIS militants. Witnesses said the U.S. troops landed by helicopter and then left an hour and a half later carrying prisoners and bodies.

The raid took place near a remote village along the Euphrates River, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based watchdog organization, which reported 25 Islamic State group militants were killed.  No Americans were killed or injured during the operation, he said. Some Islamic State group fighters were killed.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, described the raid conducted by the Joint Special Operations Command-controlled Expeditionary Targeting Force as “successful,” but he declined to provide specific information about the mission near Deir al-Zour in eastern Syria.

“It was focused on Islamic State group leadership,” Davis told reporters Monday at the Pentagon. “We don’t provide specific details on these types of operations.”  Davis said the mission was focused on gathering intelligence that could be used to inform future operations against the Islamic State group, such as the continuing assault on Mosul, the militants’ last urban stronghold in Iraq, and the future attack on Raqqa, its de facto capital in Syria.

A commander for the Syrian Democratic Forces said the attack targeted vehicles driven by senior IS militants coming from Raqqa, IS’s headquarters, and that the operation killed several militants from the group. Davis denied that prisoners were taken, saying there was “no detention from this operation”.

The unit, called the Expeditionary Targeting Force, is described as a group of about 200 Iraq-based commandos tasked with conducting raids, freeing hostages, gathering intelligence and capturing Islamic State leaders.

One raid in October 2015 in Iraq’s Kirkuk province freed dozens of hostages and resulted in the death of Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler, a 39-year-old Delta Force operator who was the first American service member killed in a firefight with ISIS militants.  The father of four, who was thinking of retiring from the Army, became the first American in four years to die in combat in Iraq.  The 70 rescued hostages were about to be executed by Islamic State militants on the morning of the raid.

The US military has more than 5,000 troops on the ground in Iraq currently, a number that has steadily crept up since roughly 300 troops were deployed in June 2014 to secure the Baghdad airport.  In December, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter announced that the US would be sending 200 additional troops to Syria to help thousands of Kurdish and Arab fighters massing for an assault on the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa.

Carter said the reinforcements would include American commandos and bomb-squad specialists. They will join the 300 Special Operations forces already working in eastern Syria to recruit, train and advise local Syrian militias to combat the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS.


Obama announced the United States will keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through most of 2016 before drawing down to about 5,500 by the end of that year. The decision prolongs the American role in a war that has already lasted 14 years. The president made the announcement in the White House alongside Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford.

“While America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures,” said Mr. Obama, “I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again.”

In 2014, the president announced the U.S. mission in Afghanistan would decrease from 9,800 troops to 1,000 by the end of 2016. So the announcement is a reversal for the president, who sees “ending two wars” as one of his greatest achievements. The president had planned to withdraw virtually all U.S. troops from the country by the end of 2016 except those needed to protect the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

The decision comes after months-long comprehensive reviews that began this past spring and included conversations among Obama, Afghan President Ghani, and Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah. While the announcement coincides with the Taliban’s capture of Kunduz last month, the plan to keep thousands of troops in Afghanistan was being considered and reviewed for months. The Taliban now controls more of Afghanistan than at any point since the 2001 U.S. invasion.

The troops will be stationed in Jalalabad, Kandahar, Kabul and Bagram, Obama said, but he did not give a timeframe for when the force level will decrease from 9,800 to 5,500, saying it is a decision that will be made in consultation with commanders on the ground and allies.

The troops will be tasked with conducting two non-combat missions – a counter-terrorism mission to go after Al Qaeda and threats to the homeland and to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces. While the president has succeeded in vastly reducing the American military presence in both countries, the United States has returned a modest force to Iraq to help Baghdad in its fight against the Islamic State. And with Thursday’s announcement, Mr. Obama leaves a commitment of thousands of troops — and the decision about how and when to end the war in Afghanistan — to his successor.

France carried out its first airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. The country had announced earlier this month that it would expand its aerial campaign against ISIS in Iraq, which it began a year ago, to include the militant group’s positions in Syria. The targets were based on intelligence gathered from air surveillance operations conducted over Syria during the past two weeks.

Six aircraft were used in the mission, which was led by the French but closely coordinated with the U.S.-led coalition. The target of the airstrikes was an Islamic State training camp, which was confirmed to have been destroyed. President Francois Hollande, speaking on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, described the camp as a “threat to our country.” “We reached our goal and the whole training camp was destroyed,” Hollande said.

Hollande told reporters the strikes on the training camp, and future strikes were aimed at “protecting our territory, cutting short terrorist actions, acting in legitimate defense.” He said more strikes could take place in the coming weeks if necessary. The targets were identified in earlier French reconnaissance flights and with information provided by the U.S.-led coalition. France has carried out 215 airstrikes against ISIS extremists in Iraq as part of the U.S.-led coalition since last year but it previously held back on engaging in Syria.

France has been the site of a number of terrorist attacks this year. Islamic extremists killed 17 people in a quick succession of attacks in Paris in January, including the shooting deaths of staff members in the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

In June, authorities said a man in southeastern France killed his boss and displayed body parts with Islamist banners and also set off an explosion in a factory. Last month, three American men brought down a suspected terrorist gunman who tried to open fire on a train bound for France.

France has also linked the refugee crisis Europe is facing in part to ISIS, saying it would strike the group for driving thousands of civilians out of Syria.  French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told CNN, “We’re not going to receive 4 to 5 million Syrians, so the problem has to be dealt with at source.”