Monday, January 9, 2017

US commando raid in Syria targets ISIS leadership.

A US serviceman holds up an ISIS flag captured and damaged in the raid. AFP. 

A US raid in Syria against ISIS leadership is being described as a success. AFP. The attack was conducted by US special forces tasked with eliminating ISIS leadership and occurred near the besieged city of Dier Ez Zor. Reports about the potential casualties in the raid. The US denies that as many as 25 ISIS fighters were killed and more were captured in the raid, saying that the reports were exaggerated and that no one had been captured in the raid. The raid targeted a small convoy of ISIS leaders en route to Dier Ez Zor from Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State. The raid reportedly consisted of at least four helicopters, including at least one Apache gunship.

My Comment:
Very interesting. This raid was pretty dangerous, if, for no other reason, it happened relatively close to the front lines between ISIS and the Syrian regime. From the article it sounds like the Syrians were aware that a raid was going on but not who was conducting it. If the Syrians had felt like doing so they could have launched missiles and shot those helicopters down. It would have been an extremely stupid thing for them to do so but you never know... 

We have had a couple of dangerous incidents in the Dier Ez Zor area before. Last fall we "accidentally" killed quite a few of their troops in a misguided air raid. The front lines in the area aren't well defined and there was a chance that would could have stirred up a hornets nest. There was certainly a chance that we could have gotten our intelligence wrong and ended up striking Syrian forces by mistake again. 

Thankfully, I think this raid happened far enough away from the front lines that the above concerns didn't really apply. The area between Raqqa and Dier Ez Zor is largely open dessert, which is the prefect place to stage a commando raid. The convoy would be isolated from other ISIS fighters and would not have time to be reinforced before the raid was over with. 

My guess is that this raid consisted of a couple of Apache attack helicopters and a couple of transport helicopters. The Apaches were there for air support while the transport helicopters landed the commandos. My guess is that they had drone coverage as well, after all, they knew that this convoy was heading out. The commandos probably then disabled the vehicles and shot or otherwise killed the ISIS fighters. 

Who was the target? I am guessing it wasn't ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. I don't think he has any reason to be going to Dier Ez Zor and even if he was I think we would have heard something about it now. Though I guess if the raid could have went crazy. We could have blown him up with a Hellfire missile or something and haven't been able to identify the body, but even then, I think we would have been informed. Plus I have heard that he is in Mosul, Iraq, directing the ISIS response to the battle there. 

Instead it was probably one of al-Baghdadi's commanders that was targeted. Probably one of the senior leadership people or a group of them together. Killing them would have an obvious benefit during upcoming battles against ISIS. Even though ISIS's ability to replace troops has decreased, it is still better for them to lose low ranking soldiers then higher ranking leaders like this. They don't have the ability to replace the people that they lose and the chances are that they won't have anyone near as competent as the leaders they lose. It's also possible that the people that were killed were part of the civilian government of ISIS or were part of ISIS's planning division looking to launch more terror attacks. 

What I want to know is why we didn't either capture the enemy instead of just killing them. If these really were high ranking leaders, why couldn't we take them and interrogate them? Doing so would be an intelligence coup and could greatly help us in the upcoming fight against ISIS. Or if gathering intelligence wasn't a goal, why not just kill these guys with a drone or the Apache helicopters. 

My guess is that we needed proof of death for the guys that we killed. We needed to identify them and doing a drone strike probably wouldn't help that if the fighters were blown to bits. That tells me that these guys were important and probably high up in the ISIS chain of command. It's also possible that was the goal but since ISIS fighters tend to be die hard true believers, it was too hard to take them down safely... 

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