US air war against jihadists in Syria begins

The USS Arleigh Burke launches Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles against the Islamic State inside Syria. Forty-seven cruise missiles were launched from the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea in the opening round of strikes in Syria.

The United States and “partner nation forces” have expanded airstrikes against the Islamic State into Syria, broadening the war with the jihadist group beyond Iraq. Additionally, the US targeted the Khorasan Group, a coordinating council made up of al Qaeda leaders in Syria.

US military officials involved in the operation told The Long War Journal that the strike package includes US B-1 bombers, carrier-based F/A-18 fighters and ground-based F-15s and F-16s, remotely piloted drones, and Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from warships.

Airstrikes targeted Islamic State command and control centers in Raqqah, the jihadist group’s de facto capital in Raqqah province in eastern Syria, as well as arms caches, supply depots, and ground units near the Iraqi border.

Rear Admiral James Kirby, the Pentagon’s spokesman, confirmed that airstrikes have begun.

“I can confirm that US military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIL [Islamic State] terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles,” Kirby said in a statement obtained by The Long War Journal.

In the early morning of Sept. 23, US Central Command, or CENTCOM, which is directing the operations in Iraq and Syria, provided further details of the attack.

Fourteen strikes against the Islamic State were executed using by “a mix of fighters, bombers, remotely piloted aircraft and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles,” according to a statement by CENTCOM. Forty-seven cruise missiles were “launched from the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea, which were operating from international waters in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf.”

“The strikes destroyed or damaged multiple ISIL targets in the vicinity of the towns of Raqqah in north central Syria, Dier al Zour, and Abu Kamal in eastern Syria and Hasakah in northeastern Syria,” the statement says. “The targets included ISIL fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armed vehicles.” According to the Syrian Observator for Human Rights, more than 70 Islamic State fighters were killed in the strikes and and over 300 were wounded.

Other countries that participated in the operation include Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Additionally, the US launched eight airstrikes against “a network of seasoned al Qaeda veterans – sometimes referred to as the Khorasan Group – who have established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations.” The strikes targeted “training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities” as part of an effort “to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests.”

CENTCOM did not provide details on the names or numbers of Islamic State and al Qaeda fighters killed. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that “no less than 50 fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra (most of them were Syrian fighters), were killed by air strikes by the warplanes of the international coalition.” In addition, eight civilians, including three children and a women, are reported to have been killed.

CENTCOM was clear that only the US targeted al Qaeda’s network in Syria. The Khorasan Group is closely tied to the Al Nusrah Front and other jihadist groups in Syria, which are at odds with the Islamic State. These groups are poised to gain from any setbacks to the rival Islamic State.

President Barrack Obama stated 13 days ago that the US air campaign against the Islamic State, which began in northern Iraq on Aug. 7, would be expanded into Syria. US and French warplanes are now operating over Irbil, Sinjar, Kirkuk, the Mosul and Haditha dams, southwest of Baghdad (likely in Jurf al Sakhar in northern Babil), and somewhere on the Euphrates River. According to CENTCOM, the US has launched 194 airstrikes in Iraq since Aug. 7.

The Islamic State has threatened to retaliate against the US and other Western countries that participate in military action against the jihadist group. Just yesterday, Abu Muhammad al Adnani, the spokesman for the Islamic State, called for Muslims in Western countries to wage jihad. [See Threat Matrix report, Islamic State spokesman again threatens West in new speech.]

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

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11 Comments

  • gerald says:

    Way to go fellas! Aim true Strike Hard!

  • Alex says:

    I hope we are doing more than just bombing buildings that have been empty for weeks.

  • Minnor says:

    Very good move by Obama, slow move helped get international support. Only airstrikes take much longer time to solve the issue, but risk for America is much less. Maximum 10 pilots may be captured by enemy, and financial loss is minimal. It wont be next Afghanistan which was abandoned in 1990s.
    As Kerry rightly said, poverty is the root cause of extremism. However Iraq shia sunni problem can be solved only by making Kurdistan as independent country.

  • Jackbo Godfrey says:

    Apparently 5 other Sunni Muslim countries participated Saudi, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Jordan. This is highly encouraging.
    This at least prevents just an exclusive “Crusader” army from the propaganda war point of view with a valid coalition of Sunni Muslim active military participation even if some of the countries participation is minor if not symbolic. This helps with the credibility!
    And where is Turkey??? Turkey needs to get in this game now or boot them from NATO! Ergodan and his Muslim Brotherhood buddies, what is he just sitting it out while everyone else bleeds. Enough already. Turkey is off the “friend” list unless they change ASAP! And if there ever was a reason to reject Turkey from EU – you got it now.

  • Scott says:

    Its time justice pays a call on Abu Muhammad al Adnani.

  • Evan says:

    I haven’t commented in a bit, I’ve been watching mostly, to see what my country will do, and to see what the enemy is doing and how they will react.
    Interesting note, IS, in particular, are a very, quasi islamo fascist group that has some very strange “ideas,” about the future. For instance, they believe, because of some obscure Hadith, that the beginning of the end of the world will begin with a massive battle at Dabiq… They think, and are told by their leaders, that a huge American ground force will come and fight them there, that they’ll somehow destroy this force, and that the battle will “prove to the world,” that they are the “masters of the end time caliphate.”
    That’s some pretty creepy stuff man, can’t we just kill all of them because we just hate them and what they stand for?
    Do they have to make it this weird religious thing?
    I guess so.
    Anyways, this is what I think, and it isn’t based off of the obscure words of a man long dead, it’s based off of personal experience, and the deep and abiding hatred of human brutality and ignorance I’ve acquired.
    I think this campaign, meaning strictly the air campaign, will actually go better than expected. I think that even though the Russians and the Iranians and the Syrians are all balking in the public eye, behind closed doors they’re secretly passing along info, greasing the wheels, making it easier for the air campaign to bear some serious fruit. It only makes sense, they can’t lose face and come out and support the air campaign, but they’re ecstatic that it’s actually happening because for one they can’t do it like we can, and for two, they are FAR more vulnerable and at risk than we are from the threat of IS. Think about it, why wouldn’t they want the air campaign to kill as many IS scum and destroy as much IS gear as possible? Every IS murderer that the US kills is one less for them to fight, and it didn’t cost them a penny, and they didn’t have to risk anything for the gain. On top of it, the US is not going to be around when all the IS bad guys are either gone, running, or trying to hide, meaning that, we won’t have any kind of real power on the ground to make anything happen once the IS threat has been dealt with, and they ALL know it. It’s like a wild west free for all. Once again, my country does the heavy lifting for the rest of the world, then whoevers got the most juice on the ground gets to take credit for the victory. So you’re welcome Syria, you’re welcome Iran, you’re welcome Russia.
    One last thought, it’s been bothering me since I read it.
    I saw an article in the NY times, they were interviewing a survivor of an IS massacre, a little back ground, the interviewee was a young man from southern Iraq, a Shia, with a wife and 2 kids who had volunteered for the Iraqi army 10 days before this incident and was stationed at camp Speicher in Tikrit. The IS came, the Iraqi Army officers all bailed on the enlisted ones, who, get this, all at once, all 3000 of them, simply took off their uniforms, apparently left their weapons behind and changed into civvies and walked out the front gate en masse. So, 3000, unarmed Shia former Iraqi soldiers walk out the front gate and they think they’ll just keep on walking all the way to Baghdad, until they run into a group of about 50 IS cowards, who tell these people, that if they’ll get into these trucks we conveniently have, they’ll take them to Baghdad, so of course, the 3000 accept. And the IS promptly drove them to the local sports arena, where they spent the next 3 days slaughtering these poor men one by one.
    So this guy miraculously survives after one of the executioners misses him and he plays dead. He lays there for a while amongst his buddies corpses, then crawls away to a river where he meets a mortally wounded taxi driver, whom he abandons, and somehow this man is able to make it home all the way back down to southern Iraq, back to his wife and 2 children and his tiny date farm. And HE has NO desire to fight.
    He has no desire to face the monsters that he literally witnessed slaughter his co religionists like chickens, none.
    No desire to defend his family, defend his country, defend his people, none, 10 days and he’s had it. Never even got into a real fight, and he’s had enough.
    This is who my country is fighting for?
    This? Really? Where are the real men in Iraq?
    This is unacceptable, and I don’t believe anyone who claims that this kind of thing is just an isolated incident.
    They’re cowards, and the thing I want to know is, what stake does my country have in Iraq?
    Why should we care?
    What do I care if some Sunni Muslim extremist from IS kills some Shia Muslim extremist from the so called “peace brigades?” Or vice versa? What’s the grand strategy here?
    Is there one?

  • Paul says:

    & @ same time Israel shots down Syrian plane fighting Al-queda in Golan Heights.
    Murky & more murky

  • John says:

    Not sure if it is true but A jihadist tweet reported
    “MARTYRDOM OF MUHSIN AL FADLI,SENIOR LEADER OF AL QAEDA IN KHURASAN &LATER JABHAT AN-NUSRA IN U.S AIRSTRIKE ”

  • It’s time to change the diplomacy around the Kurds. In the past we have gone out of our way to discourage Kurdish independence, to the point that we fund Kurdish Peshmerga units through the Baghdad government. The reasons for this attitude no longer exist. Baghdad has failed to maintain a unified Iraq. Given the Baghdad government’s behavior since 2011, I don’t see how anyone will ever trust them again. Baghdad ran their army in a way that lead to it’s falling apart, while giving the Kurds nothing. ISIS now has a lot of the Baghdad army’s US made equipment. I think we need to fund and train the Kurds directly, without Baghdad’s involvement. We obviously don’t care about the Ukraine’s territorial integrity, so why should we be hung up about Iraq’s borders. The Turks will object, but after their latest restrictions on the use of Incerlik, we don’t owe them any consideration at all. I think an airbase in Iraqi Kurdistan would make a great substitute for Incerlik. I think Kurds armed to the teeth will be able to defeat ISIS in northern Iraq. If we want ISIS out of Mosul, just tell the Kurds that if they take it, they can keep it. Let the Iranians worry about Baghdad.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    Overt action in a multi-front civil war most likely will not end well. We could have gotten better results by arming the different factions (possibly opposing) with light infantry weapons and munitions via a third party and let them bleed themselves. This air campaign is for domestic political consumption with an eye on the November elections. It will not lessen the threat from Jihadi’s toward Western interests, it will in fact increase the threat.
    @minnor:
    If any flight crew is captured or killed it would be very grave for the Obama administration.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    Lots of commentators are surprised that Nusra specifically is getting pounded so hard.
    There has speculation that the threat from the “Khorasan Group”, although real, was played up purposely by unnamed U.S. officials to justify striking Nusra by connection. The idea, which is correct, would be that since these guys share the same stripes, that Nusra would be naturally sheltering and giving safe haven to the Khorasan Group.
    What is also obvious is that this entire region has been in bloody battle for so long, that not many people seem to care anymore that there are dozens of sides facing off against each other in multiple,e directions, ripping the fabric of that region apart.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis