Boldness US Special Operations Forces pre-dawn raid in Syria that led to the death of the Islamic State leader offers a vivid reminder that no matter how the world wants to go on, the chaos in Syria continues to reverberate.
The sudden roar of an American Apache attack helicopter in a pastoral area in northwestern Syria gave way to gunfire inside a three-story building surrounded by olive trees. The raid resulted in the death of the target, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of the Islamic State, or ISIS, since 2019. US officials say he blew himself up and killed himself. 12 others when the detachment closed. .
Mr. al-Qurayshi’s death comes days after US forces backed a Kurdish-led militia in a bloody week-long battle to dislodge ISIS fighters from a prison in Iraq. northeast Syria, the largest US attack on the Islamic State since the attack. the end of the so-called caliphate of the jihadists three years ago. That and the airstrike on al-Qurayshi underscored that the United States has yet to fully withdraw from the military fighting in Syria and its more than two-decade-long global war against terrorist groups. Dad isn’t over yet.
Here are five takeaways from the raid:
The United States’ war on terror continues, with no end in sight.
Years of military action by the United States and its international partners to destroy terrorism have exacted large tolls, primarily against Al Qaeda and then against the Islamic State, which emerged from the turmoil of the Iraq war and the fall of the Syrian government. But even as countless warriors were killed and leaders eliminated, both groups adapted into more pervasive organizations, adept at finding new places of refuge from which to launch violence. opportunity force.
The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan this summer, facilitated by the withdrawal of US troops, has refocused international attention on the prospect of terrorists taking back the country as a haven. In Iraq, the Islamic State recently killed 10 soldiers and an officer at an army post and beheaded a police officer in front of cameras. In Syria, it has assassinated scores of local leaders, extorting businesses to finance its operations.
In Afghanistan, the withdrawal of American forces in August left the local branch of the Islamic State fighting the Taliban, with often dire consequences for the civilians caught in the middle.
“The recent attacks by ISIS,” said Mick Mulroy, a former senior Pentagon official and retired CIA paramilitary operations officer, “indicates that ISIS is not real. currently fighting, so are the United States and our partners.”
As the US counterterrorism campaign evolved, commando operations remained rare.
America’s efforts to combat terrorism around the world in recent years have been largely defined by air strikes and drone warfare, also precisely – and largely unrecognized – civilian casualties.
The attack on al-Qurayshi was a reminder that the US military is still capable of targeted commando operations, but they carry risks.
The operation by about two dozen Special Forces troops using helicopters in northwestern Syria – planned for months, was carried out on a moonless night and monitored on video screens from the US’s Situation Room. The White House – bears striking similarities to the US air strikes that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Pakistan in 2011 and the former leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in the same part of Syria in 2019.
But because of the extensive planning and risk to the troops they participate in, such raids are reserved for the most important targets.
US officials said they took care to avoid civilian casualties, evacuating 10 children from the building during the raid. That explosion appears to have been responsible for at least 13 deaths during the operation, officials said.
But in complex raids, the army’s initial version of events may be incomplete. Accounts of past activities are sometimes contradictory or false, and the Pentagon says it is still gathering information from the raid.
The turmoil in Syria provides the jihadists with a refuge.
President Bashar al-Assad has held on to power despite a decades-long civil war, but the Syrian state is a mess, with the country’s pockets beyond his control and illegal drug empire flourished in government-held areas. A New York Times investigation last year found that Syrian elites with ties to Mr. al-Assad were behind a multibillion-dollar industry that traded a illegal amphetamines has become the country’s most valuable export, outstripping its legal products.
Thursday’s raid took place in the Atmeh area, a rural and smuggling town in the northeast that was densely populated during the war. As tens of thousands of Syrians have been displaced, massive camps have sprung up and analysts say jihadists often hide among civilians struggling to survive.
Atmeh is in Idlib province, which is still home to many violent extremist groups, led by Hayat Tahrir al Sham, formerly the Nusra Front, which is affiliated with Al Qaeda.
Another security vacuum exists in northeastern Syria, where jihadists have found refuge by evading US-supported Kurdish militia near the border with Turkey and in the desert. across the border with Iraq.
Days before the raid, American forces supported a Kurdish-led militia in the city of Hasaka that had been fighting for more than a week to Expel Islamic State fighters from prison they occupied. War kill hundreds of people and serve as a reminder of the group’s ability to sow chaotic violence.
It was a victory for Biden amid other crises abroad.
In confronting Russia over its military build-up on the border with Ukraine and in the face of deepening competition with China – as well as domestic challenges including rising inflation and opposition. inconsistency in Congress – President Biden has secured a political victory with the mission in Syria. According to US officials, it removed one of the world’s most wanted terrorist leaders without loss of life.
After Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, Biden’s critics argued that his withdrawal from the country would hinder intelligence gathering against terrorist networks. The hunt for al-Qurayshi, whom intelligence officials have been tracking since last year, offers evidence that the United States still has the ability to spy on jihadist leaders in Syria.
White House aides said top Pentagon officials and military commanders endorsed their plan, which at one point showed a model of the countertop of the building where the Islamic State leader and where his family lives – and note that a Syrian family with no apparent connection to the terrorist group lives on the first floor.
Noting the high risk of harm to civilians and commandos, military engineers told Biden they did not believe the entire building would collapse if al-Qurayshi detonated a suicide vest or explosives. Another explosion on the third floor, according to an account by two Biden administration officials.
Ultimately, Biden said, al-Qurayshi died when a bomb exploded, killing him and members of his family.
Mr. al-Qurayshi’s death allows Mr. Biden, like his predecessors in the Oval Office, to be recognized for removing a jihadist leader whose group is responsible for numerous civilian deaths. in Syria and Iraq, as well as deadly terrorist attacks around the world.
ISIS is likely to survive, even without a unified leader.
At the height of its power around 2015, the Islamic State controlled parts of Syria and Iraq the size of Britain. It attracts hordes of foreign fighters from as far away as China and Australia and runs a sophisticated propaganda machine that inspires or directs foreign attacks from Berlin. to San Bernardino, Calif. By December 2017, after a lengthy US-led military campaign, the country had lost 95% of its territory.
The fighting continued as a US-led coalition joined with local forces in Syria and Iraq to regain the group’s interests. A Kurdish-led militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces, with US military support, pushed it out of its last swath of northeastern Syria in early 2019. In October of that year, American air raids killed the group’s leader, Mr. al-Baghdadi.
After al-Qurayshi replaced al-Baghdadi, the United States placed a reward of up to 10 million USD for him. Mr. al-Qurayshi has always hid to avoid arrest, which analysts say has prevented him from expanding the group’s reach. But the group has grown to the point where one person’s death doesn’t mean it’s no longer a threat.
Daniel Milton, research director at the Counterterrorism Center at West Point, said: “I don’t think anyone should be under the illusion that his removal from the organization is a fatal blow to Islamic State. . “This will hopefully hamper the organization, but I don’t think it will remove the threat going forward.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/04/world/middleeast/islamic-state-syria-raid-takeaways.html Five secrets learned from the US raid that killed the leader of the Islamic State