The Pentagon said it intensified its raids against the “Islamic State” (IS) group in Syria, carrying out several helicopter and ground operations during the month of December.
According to officials of the US Central Command, no less than 10 operations aimed at killing or capturing the main militants of the terrorist organization have been carried out by the US military.
Each operation is planned carefully and takes into account potential risks after making assessments on the information collected by the intelligence services, said Colonel Joe Buccino, spokesman for the Central Command.
A total of 7 raids were carried out at the beginning of December (and 1 in October) which resulted in the killing or arrest of IS members, as well as 3 operations carried out last Tuesday in coordination with the Syrian Democratic Forces, which led to the detention of six members of the jihadist group, a spokesman for the command said.
US officials acknowledged that Central Command carried out additional raids in Syria, but command officials declined to provide details on other raids.
The operations aim to eliminate regional or local leaders of the terrorist group who military officials believe play a role in planning and carrying out attacks, mainly in rural areas against local security forces in the region. But raids alone cannot stop the terror group’s expansion in Syria, especially during an acute economic crisis and a stalled political settlement to resolve the nearly 12-year-old war, experts and former US officials.
The United States is “conducting more strikes because it has to,” said Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a former White House and State Department official who oversaw Syria policy. in the Trump administration. The group expanded into Iraq and Syria after the withdrawal of US troops from the two-river country in 2011. ISIS, which lost most of its territory in 2017, has maintained its ability to carry out terrorist operations in Syria and Iraq with up to 1,800 fighters in Syria and more than 8,000 in Iraq, according to military officials.
The frequency of the group’s attacks has decreased over time, and since 2019 the group has used fewer improvised explosive devices, military officials said. But the problems posed by the Islamic State still persist. Syria has nearly 30 detention centers housing thousands of imprisoned fighters. The terror group is still capable of carrying out attacks against US forces and allies, as well as mobilizing fighters.
“Even though ISIS’s power has drastically diminished in Iraq and Syria, the group retains the ability to conduct operations in the region,” Gen. Erik Kurilla, who heads the Tampa-based Central Command, told reporters. , in Florida. Despite the growing regional threat, the terror group does not pose an imminent threat to the United States, officials said, however.
Raids by special operations forces on December 8 led to the detention of five IS members, military officials said. Another raid on December 11 resulted in the deaths of two ISIS officials, they said. Another raid on October 6 near the village of Qamishli in northeastern Syria targeted and killed an Islamic State official believed to be an arms dealer and known as Rakkan Wahid al -Shammri.
On November 30, the central command announced the death of Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, identified as a top IS leader. The US operations come as Syria faces both economic instability and political stalemate.
Washington maintains around 1,000 US troops in various locations inside Syria.