Fox News on September 2, 2015, reported that the drone strike that killed ISIS’ most notorious online recruiter in Syria last week was part of a stepped-up effort by the CIA and U.S. Special Operations forces to target and eliminate senior members of the terror group, according to a published report. Excerpts below:
The Washington Post, citing U.S. officials, reported on September 1 that the collaborative effort has been responsible for “several” recent strikes against senior ISIS operatives deemed “high-value targets.” The program’s most notable success has been the death of Junaid Hussain, a British-born computer hacker who used social media in an effort to inspire homegrown jihadists to commit terror attacks.
The Post reported that the targets of the drone strikes had been identified by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC), while the actual missions were being carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). According to the paper, the drone strikes constitute a fraction of the more than 2,450 strikes conducted in Syria over the past 12 months. An additional 4,000 airstrikes have targeted ISIS in Iraq.
U.S. officials tell the paper there is no plan to impose the Syria-style arrangement on the agency’s drone missions in Pakistan or Yemen, but they did say the model could be used in future conflicts.
Comment: The US drone war in Syria is of course degrading ISIS, which is welcome. By now, however, it is clear that ISIS cannot be defeated from the air alone. Thus it is necessary to launch ground operations on a larger scale against the jihadists in northern Syria and Iraq.