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American-led intervention in Syria

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Title: American-led intervention in Syria  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Military intervention against ISIL, American-led intervention in Iraq (2014–present), List of wars involving the United States, Ghouta chemical attack, Syrian Civil War
Collection: 2014 in Syria, 2014 in the Syrian Civil War, 2015 in the Syrian Civil War, Articles Containing Video Clips, Battles Involving Iraqi Kurdistan, Battles Involving the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Battles Involving the United States, Conflicts in 2014, Conflicts in 2015, Foreign Policy of the Barack Obama Administration, Iraqi Insurgency (2011–present), Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Military Operations Against Isil Involving the United States, Military Operations Involving the United States, Obama Administration Controversies, Operation Inherent Resolve, Syrian Civil War, War on Terror, Wars Involving Bahrain, Wars Involving Jordan, Wars Involving Qatar, Wars Involving Saudi Arabia, Wars Involving Syria, Wars Involving the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Wars Involving the United Arab Emirates, Wars Involving the United Kingdom, Wars Involving the United States
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American-led intervention in Syria

American-led intervention in Syria
Part of 2014 military intervention against ISIL, Syrian Civil War, Global War on Terrorism

Tomahawk missiles being fired from the warships USS Philippine Sea and USS Arleigh Burke at IS targets in Syria
Date September 22, 2014 – ongoing (4 months and 3 days)
Location Syria
Result Ongoing
Belligerents
Coalition forces-air

 United States
 Bahrain
 Jordan
 Qatar[3]
 Saudi Arabia
 UAE[4]
 United Kingdom (surveillance)
Coalition forces-ground
 Iraqi Kurdistan

Local ground forces
Syrian Kurdistan

Free Syrian Army[6]

Local guerrillas[5][7]
 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant[8]

[9][10][11]

al-Qaeda


Ahrar ash-Sham[2]
Commanders and leaders
Barack Obama
Lloyd Austin
Salih Muslim Muhammad
Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir
Masoud Barzani
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Self-proclaimed Caliph)

Abu Mohammad al-Adnani (Spokesperson)
Abu Omar al-Shishani (Military Chief)
Abu Ali al-Anbari (Deputy, Syria)
Abu Khattab al-Kurdi (Commander of the assault on Kobanî)[14]


Abu Mohammad al-Golani
Muhsin al-Fadhli [15]
David Drugeon [16][17]


Abu Jaber[18]
Strength
Coalition forces:

Coalition forces-air

Coalition forces-ground


Local forces

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant:
  • Around 100,000 fighters (according to Iraqi Kurdistan Chief of Staff.)[32][33]
  • 3 MiG-21 or MiG-23 aircraft[34][35]
  • 2 Drones[36][37][38]

al-Qaeda:

  • al-Nusra Front: 5,165–6,165[39][40]
  • Khorasan: 50[41]

Ahrar ash-Sham:

  • 10,000–25,000[42]
Casualties and losses
United States:
  • 1 Marine dead (non-combat)[43]

Unknown:

  • 1 UAV crashed[44][45]
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant:
  • 786 killed[46]
  • 12 oil refineries bombed[47]

al-Qaeda:

  • 72 killed[46]

Ahrar ash-Sham:

  • 1 killed[48]
52 civilians killed[46]
Over 300,000 civilians flee to Turkey[49]
Number of militants killed possibly higher, due to them covering up their losses.[50]

Forces from the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE launched strikes in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and affiliates of al-Qaeda, beginning in September 2014, as part of a multinational campaign against Islamist extremist militant groups.

The United States began surveillance missions on positions held by ISIL in Syria during September 2014. On September 10, President Obama gave a speech indicating his intent to "degrade and ultimately destroy" ISIL, saying, "I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq."[51]

From September 22, 2014, the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE began to strike targets inside Syria[8][52] which also included the Khorasan group (an offshoot of al-Nusra) in the Idlib Governorate, to the west of Aleppo, as well as the al-Nusra Front around Ar-Raqqah.[13][53] On November 2, in response to the airstrikes, representatives from Ahrar ash-Sham attended a significant meeting with the al-Nusra Front, the Khorasan Group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and Jund al-Aqsa, which sought to unite several hard-line groups against the coalition and other moderate Syrian Rebel groups.[40] On November 6, coalition forces began launching airstrikes on Ahrar ash-Sham at its headquarters at Idlib, whose leadership had been infiltrated by al-Qaeda.[54] On November 13, 2014, a third set of airstrikes were launched against Khorasan.[55] On November 19, the US carried out a fourth set of strikes on Khorasan, which destroyed one of the group's storage facilities.[56]

Contents

  • Background 1
    • July 2014 rescue mission 1.1
    • Beheadings of Western hostages 1.2
    • Surveillance flights over Syria 1.3
    • Arming the Syrian opposition 1.4
  • Preparations for air strikes 2
  • Air campaign 3
    • Multi-national airstrikes 3.1
      • September 2014 3.1.1
      • October 2014 3.1.2
      • November 2014 3.1.3
    • Strikes on the Khorasan Group 3.2
    • Syrian government involvement 3.3
    • Civilian casualties 3.4
  • Air supply 4
  • Ground forces 5
  • The late naming of operation Inherent Resolve 6
  • Turkish involvement 7
  • Reactions 8
    • Foreign reactions 8.1
    • Syrian reactions 8.2
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Background

Following the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, peaceful protests in Syria against the Assad administration were suppressed and became violent.[57] The al-Nusra Front was established by the Islamic State of Iraq as the official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria. The al-Nusra Front was eventually eclipsed by its own creator, and al-Qaeda severed its ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in February 2014, after an eight-month power struggle.[58]

Map of current territory controlled in Syrian Civil War. Red indicates territory controlled by Pro-Assad forces, Gray by ISIL, Green by the Syrian opposition and Yellow by Syrian Kurdistan.

July 2014 rescue mission

Following the abduction of a number of foreigners in Syria, on July 4, 2014, U.S. air strikes were conducted against the ISIL military base known as the "Osama bin Laden Camp". At the same time, two dozen special operations members parachuted from helicopters near an ISIS building for high-valued prisoners. However, no prisoners were found in the building and the special forces members were soon engaged by ISIS forces from Ar-Raqqah and a three-hour firefight ensued.[59] Eventually, U.S. forces came to the conclusion that the hostages were no longer at the site and abandoned the rescue attempt. At least 5 ISIS fighters were killed and a U.S. soldier was wounded. Jordanian forces were also reportedly involved in the operation with one Jordanian soldier also wounded, but this was not confirmed. Later it was reported the hostages had been moved 24 hours before the attempted rescue.[59] It remained unclear whether the operation failed due to bad intelligence or whether ISIS forces were alerted in advance of the mission.[60]

Beheadings of Western hostages

In the aftermath of the rescue mission, and purportedly as a response to airstrikes in Iraq, ISIL beheaded three hostages over a one-month period: Americans James Foley on c. August 19, 2014,[59] Steven Sotloff on c. September 2,[61] and Briton David Haines on c. 13 September.[62]

Surveillance flights over Syria

On August 26, the U.S. began sending surveillance flights, including drones, into Syria to gather intelligence on ISIS targets in Syria. The flights started gathering intelligence that would aid any future airstrikes, however airstrikes were not yet authorized[63] and no approval was sought from the Syrian Arab Republic for the flights entering Syrian airspace.[64]

Arming the Syrian opposition

At the direction of President Obama, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency played an active role since the early stages of the Syrian Civil War. The U.S. first supplied the moderate rebels of the Free Syrian Army with non-lethal aid but rapidly added provision of training, cash and intelligence to selected rebel commanders.[65][66][67]

On September 17, the House of Representatives voted to authorize the executive branch to train and arm Syrian rebels against ISIL forces.[68] One of the groups that United States intends to train and arm is the Islamist Army of Mujahedeen;[69][70] the Harakat Hazm group is already being supplied by the United States.[69] There are indications that the Army of Mujahdeen is still being vetted.[71] The U.S. plan to train at least 5,000 Syrian rebels has yet to begin.[72]

United States Department of State spokesman Joshua Baker has stated that the airstrikes are coordinated with the FSA.[73] A FSA spokesman stated that there was no current coordination, but it had been promised that it was forthcoming.[71]

Preparations for air strikes

In his address to the nation on September 10, Barack Obama announced his intention to bomb targets of the militant group in Syria and called on Congress to authorise a programme to train and arm rebels who are fighting ISIL and the Syrian forces of President Bashar al-Assad.[74] For the first time he authorized direct attacks against the militant group in Syria. In his address he said that the United States are going on offensive launching "a steady, relentless effort to take out" the jihadist group that has seized vast swaths of Iraq and has a large haven in Syria, "wherever they exist." Obama also announced creating of a broader coalition against ISIS.[75]

Commenting on Obama's address, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich opposed the U. S. intervention against the ISIS "without the consent of the legitimate government" and said that "this step, in the absence of a UN Security Council decision, would be an act of aggression, a gross violation of international law". Ali Haidar, Syrian minister of national reconciliation, said that "any action of any kind without the consent of the Syrian government would be an attack on Syria".[76]

On September 17, the U. S. House of Representatives gave bipartisan approval to Obama's plan to train and arm the Syrian rebels in their fight against the ISIS. In a statement after the House vote, Obama said that the United States won't send military troops to Syria.[77] The U. S. top military leadership approved Obama's plan on September 18. The Senate gave final congressional approval to Obama's proposal the next day.[78]

The spokesperson for the United States Department of State, Jen Psaki, told that the United States didn't ask for Syrian permission to start the intervention or made coordinated actions with the Syrian government, but the United States warned Syria not to engage US aircraft. The United States didn't give any advance notification to the Syrians at a military level, or give any indication of our timing on specific targets.[79] However, Syrian foreign ministry said that the United States did inform the Syrian envoy to the United Nations before launching airstrikes against the ISIS.[80]

Before the airstrikes began, the United States informed Iran, the Assad government's largest regional ally, of their intention to launch airstrikes. They did not share specific timing or targets of the strikes with the Iranian government, who were concerned with whether the US would strike any Syrian government targets.[81]

Air campaign

Multi-national airstrikes

Before and after picture of IS command control center after F-22 airstrike on September 23

September 2014

On September 22, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby confirmed that the United States and other partner nations had undertaken strikes in Syria using fighters, bombers, and Tomahawk missiles authorized by President Barack Obama.[82] Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were identified as countries making or supporting airstrikes the first night.[3] The initial strikes were coordinated by United States Central Command[4] and targeted about 20 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant targets, including headquarters buildings.[83] Anti-Islamic State sources in Syria claimed that among the targets was also Brigade 93, a Syrian army base that the militants had recently captured and targets in the towns of Tabqa and Tel Abyad in Raqqa province.[84]

George H.W. BushUSS  to strike IS targets in Syria on September 23

The US also targeted the al Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front and Khorasan Group[85] in the Aleppo and Idlib governorates of Syria.[86]

F-22 Raptor stealth fighters were reported to be among the U.S. aircraft striking targets in Syria on the first night of the campaign, carrying out their first combat missions since entering service in 2005.[21]

At least 70 IS fighters, 50 fighters affiliated with al Qaeda and civilians were killed overnight by the strikes according to the SOHR. Eight strikes were launched against the group Khorasan.[87]

On September 24, the United States and Arab partners conducted another round of airstrikes on ISIL facilities in Syria. The airstrikes were targeting oil production facilities controlled by ISIL who had been using the oil in order to fund their activities. Some targets were apparently also mobile production facilities and those were most likely not refineries which other strikes targeted.[88]

In a third round of airstrikes on the ISIL targets on September 25, Arab partners lead the United States in strikes against militant-held oil facilities in northeastern Syria. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates dropped 80 percent of the bomb tonnage in the third round of strikes, compared to other strikes in which the United States lead Arab partners.[89]

On September 26, the United States carried out a fourth round of airstrikes on ISIL targets in Eastern Syria. The strikes were targeting IS heavy equipment and destroyed four of their tanks in the Deir ez-Zor Province.[90]

In a fifth round of airstrikes in Syria on September 27, the United States lead strikes along with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates against ISIL forces in the Kobanê Canton of Syrian Kurdistan. The strikes destroyed two armored vehicles and an unknown number of fighters in an area that had been put under siege by ISIL militants. The siege by Islamic State fighters had recently forced over 100,000 Syrian Kurds to flee across the border to Turkey.[91]

On September 28 and 29, the United States carried out two rounds of strikes against IS positions across Syria in 4 provinces. Among the facilities targeted was the entrance to the largest gas plant in Syria, in the Deir ez-Zor Province, and IS training camp and vehicles near an IS controlled grain silo in Manbij, Aleppo province.[92]

October 2014

In an eighth round of airstrikes in Syria on October 1, the United States and coalition partners struck ISIL targets in Northern Syria. The daytime strikes targeted ISIL forces laying siege to Kobanî, a primarily Kurdish city in Syrian Kurdistan, in support of the YPG and Free Syrian Army, who were defending the city.[93]

Pictures show damage to the Gbiebe oil refinery in Syria following air strikes by US and coalition forces.

On October 2, the United States lead a ninth round of strikes along with the United Arab Emirates against ISIL forces across Syria. The strikes destroyed an ISIL checkpoint near Kobanî, damaged a tank north of Sinjar Mountain, destroyed a tank west of Raqqa, and multiple IS facilities east of Aleppo.[94]

In a tenth round of airstrikes in Syria on October 3, the United States, assisted by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates struck ISIL forces in Northern and Eastern Syria. The strikes destroyed an ISIL garrison south of Al-Hasakah, destroyed two tanks southeast of Deir ez-Zor, destroyed two modular oil refineries and a training camp south of Raqqa, and struck an ISIL building northeast of Aleppo.[95]

On October 4, the United States lead an eleventh round of airstrikes, along with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, against ISIL forces across Syria. The US and partner nations carried out nine strikes, destroying an ISIL infantry unit, armored personnel carrier, and a vehicle south of Kobanî, destroying a tank and a vehicle southeast of Deir ez-Zor, damaging the Taqba airfield and destroying an artillery piece near Ar-Raqqa, as well as destroying an IS depot and logistics complex south of Al-Hasakah.[96]

In a twelfth round of airstrikes in Syria on October 5, the United States carried out three airstrikes against ISIL forces in Central and Eastern Syria. The strikes destroyed an ISIL bulldozer, two ISIL tanks and another vehicle northwest of Al Mayadin, and destroyed six firing positions and a large ISIL unit northwest of Ar-Raqqa.[97]

On October 6, the United States carried out a thirteenth round of airstrikes in Syria against ISIL forces across Syria. The strikes destroyed an ISIL tank near Taqba airfield west of Raqqa, destroyed two fighting positions south of Kobanî, and destroyed a tank southeast of Deir ez-Zor.[98]

A F-22 Raptor being refueled prior to an airstrike on ISIL targets in Syria

In a fourteenth round of airstrikes in Syria on October 7, the United States, assisted by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against ISIL forces across Syria. The US and partner nations carried out nine strikes damaging multiple ISIL held buildings west of Al-Hasakah, damaging a staging area and IED production facility northeast of Deir ez-Zor, destroying 3 armed vehicles, damaging one armed vehicle, destroying a vehicle carrying anti-aircraft artillery, destroying an ISIL tank, and an ISIL unit all around Kobanî, and killing a small group of fighters southwest of Rabiyah.[99]

On October 8, the United States lead a fifteenth round of airstrikes along with the United Arab Emirates against ISIL forces across Syria. The US and the United Arab Emirates carried out nine strikes destroying an armored personnel carrier, four armed vehicles, an artillery piece, and damaged another armed vehicle around Kobanî, striking an ISIL training camp and fighters northwest of Raqqa, and destroying a tank northwest of Deir ez-Zor.[100]

In a sixteenth round of airstrikes in Syria on October 9, the United States carried out nine airstrikes in the areas around the border town of Kobanî that is under siege. The US carried out six airstrikes south of Kobanî that destroyed two ISIL-held buildings, one tank and one heavy machine gun along, a fighting position along with one large and two small ISIL units. Along with strikes south of Kobanî, the US carried out three airstrikes north of Kobanî which struck two small ISIL units and destroyed two ISIL-held buildings.[101]

On October 10, the United States led a seventeenth round of airstrikes along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against ISIL forces across Syria. The US and partner nations carried out nine strikes, destroying two ISIL training facilities, three vehicles, damaging a tank and striking two ISIL units around Kobanî. The strikes also destroyed an armored vehicle staging facility east of Deir ez-Zor and struck a small ISIL unit northeast of Al Hasakah.[102]

In an eighteenth round of airstrikes in Syria on October 11, the United States carried out six airstrikes around the border town of Kobanî that is under siege by ISIL forces. The US carried out four strikes north of Kobanî striking a fighting position, damaging a command and control facility, destroying a staging building, and striking two small ISIL units. South of Kobanî, two airstrikes destroyed three trucks.[103]

A F/A-18 Super Hornet taking off from USS Carl Vinson before carrying out strikes on ISIL targets in Syria

On October 12, the United States led a nineteenth round of airstrikes along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against ISIL forces across Syria. The US and partner nations carried out four strikes, three in Kobanî, destroying a fighting position and a staging area, and one strike northwest of Ar-Raqqa, destroying an armored vehicle compound.[104]

Also, on October 12, the United States announced that the Turkish government had approved the use of Turkish military bases by coalition forces fighting ISIL in Syria and Iraq. These installations will include key bases only 100 miles from the Syrian border and important US military bases in Turkey such as the Incirlik Air Base.[105][106] Despite the announcement that the Turkish government had approved the use of Turkish military bases by coalition forces, on October 13, Turkish officials denied that any agreement had been made over coalition use of Turkish Airbases including Incirlik.[107]

In a twentieth round of airstrikes in Syria on October 13, the United States and Saudi Arabia carried out eight airstrikes against ISIL forces in Syria. The US and Saudi Arabia carried out seven strikes in and around Kobanî, striking a large ISIL unit, two small units; damaging one staging location and destroying another, destroying a heavy-machine-gun firing position, destroying three buildings, and damaging two others. One other strike northwest of Ar-Raqqa struck an ISIL garrison.[108]

On October 14, the United States and Saudi Arabia carried out the twenty-first round and the largest set of strikes against ISIL in Syria since the beginning of the intervention, with 21 strikes against targets in and around Kobanî, and an additional strike near Deir ez-Zor. According to the Department of Defense, the strikes were designed to interdict ISIL reinforcements and resupply zones and prevent IS from massing combat power on the Kurdish held portions of Kobanî. The strikes destroyed two staging locations and damaged another, destroyed one ISIL building and damaged two others, damaged three ISIL compounds, destroyed one truck, destroyed one armed vehicle, and destroyed one other vehicle near Kobanî in support of Kurdish forces resisting the siege of the town. In addition to those targets, the airstrikes struck seven staging areas, two mortar positions, three ISIL occupied buildings, and an artillery storage facility. An additional strike near Deir ez-Zor struck a modular oil refinery.[109]

In a twenty-second round of airstrikes on October 15, the United States carried out 18 strikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî. The strikes destroyed multiple fighting positions and also successfully struck 16 ISIL-occupied buildings.[110]

On October 16, the United States carried out a twenty-third round of airstrikes with 14 airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî. The strikes struck 19 ISIL controlled-buildings, two command posts, three fighting positions, three sniper positions, one staging location, and one heavy machine gun position.[111]

In a twenty-fourth round of airstrikes on October 17, the United States carried out seven airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî, and in north-eastern Syria. Six airstrikes took place near Kobanî, striking three ISIL controlled buildings; destroyed two fighting positions, suppressed three fighting positions, and destroyed two vehicles. One other airstrike near Al-Shaddadeh struck ISIL controlled oil collection equipment, including several Petroleum, oil, and lubricants tanks, and a pump station.[112]

On October 20, the United States carried out a twenty-fifth round of airstrikes, with six airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî. The strikes destroyed ISIL fighting positions, ISIL mortar positions, a vehicle, and one stray equipment supply bundle from a U.S. airdrop of Kurdish supplies in order to prevent the supplies from being captured.[113]

In a twenty-sixth round of airstrikes on October 21, the United States carried out four airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî. The strikes destroyed several ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL controlled building, and a large ISIL unit.[114]

On October 22, the United States carried out a twenty-seventh round of airstrikes with six airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî. The strikes destroyed several ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL vehicles, an ISIL controlled building and an ISIL logistical center.[115]

In a twenty-eighth round of airstrikes on October 23, the United States carried out six airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Deir ez-Zor. Four strikes destroyed several ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL vehicle, and an ISIL command and control center near Kobanî. Two strikes east of Deir ez-Zor destroyed several ISIL oil holding tanks.[116]

On October 24, the United States carried out a twenty-ninth round of airstrikes with six airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî. The strikes destroyed an ISIL vehicle and struck three ISIL units.[117]

In a thirtieth round of airstrikes on October 25, the United States carried out one strike near Kobanî, destroying an ISIL artillery piece.[118]

On October 26, the United States carried out a thirty-first round of airstrikes with five airstrikes against ISIL targets near Kobanî, destroying seven ISIL vehicles and an ISIL-controlled building.[119]

In a thirty-second round of airstrikes on October 27, the United States carried out four strikes near Kobanî, destroying five ISIL vehicles and an ISIL occupied building.[120]

On October 28, the United States carried out a thirty-third round of airstrikes, with four airstrikes against ISIL targets near Kobanî, destroying four ISIL fighting positions and a small ISIL unit.[121]

In a thirty-fourth round of airstrikes on October 29, the United States carried out eight airstrikes in and around Kobanî. The strikes destroyed five ISIL fighting positions, a small ISIL unit, six ISIL vehicles, an ISIL controlled building, and an ISIL command and control node.[122]

On October 30, the United States carried out a thirty-fifth round of airstrikes, with twelve airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî, as well as targets near Deir ez-Zor and Ar-Raqqah. 10 strikes near Kobanî struck two small ISIL units, destroyed seven ISIL fighting positions, and five ISIL controlled buildings. One strike near Deir ez-Zor damaged an ISIL headquarters building, and another strike near Ar-Raqqah damaged an ISIL security building.[123]

In a thirty-sixth round of airstrikes on October 31, the United States carried out four airstrikes in and around Kobanî, damaging four ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL controlled building.[124]

November 2014

On November 1, the United States carried out a thirty-seventh round of airstrikes with five airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî. The strikes suppressed or destroyed nine ISIL fighting positions, and struck one ISIL-controlled building.[125]

In a thirty-eighth round of airstrikes on November 2, the United States carried out seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî, and near Deir ez-Zor. Five strikes in and around Kobanî struck five small ISIL units and destroyed three ISIL vehicles. Two strikes southeast of Deir ez-Zor destroyed an ISIL tank and two vehicle shelters.[125]

On November 3, the United States and coalition partners carried out a thirty-ninth round of airstrikes in and around Kobanî, and near Deir ez-Zor. Four airstrikes in and around Kobanî struck an ISIL fighting position, a small ISIL unit, and destroyed two ISIL controlled buildings. One airstrike near Deir ez-Zor damaged an ISIL controlled building.[125]

In a fortieth round of airstrikes on November 4 and 5, the United States carried out six airstrikes in and around Kobanî, and north of Sinjar just across the Iraqi-Syrian border into Syria. Three airstrikes in and around Kobanî struck a small ISIL unit, two ISIL fighting positions, and an ISIL dump truck that was used in the construction of fighting positions. An airstrike north of Sinjar destroyed an ISIL fighting position used to launch mortar attacks, and struck a small ISIL unit manning the position. Two additional strikes north of Sinjar struck a small ISIL unit and destroyed an ISIL armored vehicle.[126]

On November 6 and 7, the United States carried out a forty-first round of airstrikes in and around Kobanî, and near Tal Abyad. Seven strikes in and around Kobanî struck three small ISIL units, seven ISIL fighting positions, and destroyed an ISIL artillery piece. One airstrike near Tal Abyad destroyed an ISIL weapons stockpile.[127]

In a forty-second round of airstrikes between November 8 and November 10, the United States carried out twenty-three airstrikes in and around Kobanî, and near Deir ez-Zor. Thirteen airstrikes conducted in and around Kobanê struck an ISIL vehicle and five small ISIL units, destroyed an ISIL-occupied building used as an ammunition stockpile, an ISIL command and control building, and seven ISIL fighting positions, as well as damaging two ISIL fighting positions. In addition, eight airstrikes southeast of Deir ez-Zor damaged several structures of an ISIL oil collection facility, which was used to trans-load oil for the black market, while two airstrikes east of Deir ez-Zor damaged an ISIL oil collection point.[128]

On November 11 and 12, the United States carried out a forty-third round of airstrikes with sixteen airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Deir ez-Zor, and near Al-Hasakah. Ten airstrikes conducted in and around Kobanî struck eight small ISIL units, damaged three ISIL fighting positions, and destroyed an ISIL logistics facility. Additionally, four strikes near Deir ez-Zor damaged an ISIL crude oil collection facility, struck a small ISIL unit, and damaged an ISIL vehicle. Two strikes near Al-Hasakah damaged a crude oil collection point.[129]

In a forty-fourth round of airstrikes between November 13 and 14, the United States carried out twenty airstrikes in and around Kobanî, east of Deir ez-Zor, west of Aleppo, and east of Ar-Raqqah. Seventeen airstrikes conducted in and around Kobanî struck 10 ISIL units, destroyed 10 fighting positions, an ISIL controlled building, two ISIL vehicles, and an ISIL motorcycle. An airstrike east of Ar-Raqqah destroyed an ISIL training camp and another airstrike east of Deir ez-Zor destroyed an ISIL oil collection point. One other strike in northwest Syria west of Aleppo, struck terrorists associated with the Khorasan group.[130]

Between November 15 and 17, the United States carried out a forty-fifth round of airstrikes with eleven strikes in and around Kobanî, and near Deir ez-Zor. Nine airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed seven ISIL fighting positions, suppressed an ISIL fighting position, destroyed four ISIL staging areas, and struck one tactical ISIL unit. Two airstrikes near Deir ez-Zor struck an ISIL crude oil collection facility and destroyed one ISIL tank.[125]

In a forty-sixth round of airstrikes between November 18 and 19, the United States carried out seven strikes in and around Kobanî, southeast of Al-Hasakah, and near Hazm. Five airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed an ISIL fighting position, an ISIL staging area and three ISIL controlled buildings, suppressed two ISIL fighting positions, struck two tactical ISIL units, and a large ISIL unit. One airstrike southeast of Al-Hasakah damaged a crude oil collection point operated by ISIL. One airstrike near Hazm, struck and destroyed a storage facility associated with the Khorasan Group.[56]

Strikes on the Khorasan Group

U.S. Air Force fighter drops ordnance on an ISIL compound in Ar-Raqqah, Syria on September 23, 2014.

One of the groups targeted by U.S. strikes was the Khorasan Group, a extremist group of suspected al-Qaeda "core" members who were alleged to have been plotting an attack against the U.S. and other Western nations.[131] The strikes targeted Khorasan training camps, explosives and munitions production facilities, communications facilities, and command and control facilities. The group has been claimed to possess 'advanced' bomb making skills and their plot is claimed to involve a bomb made of a nonmetallic device such as a toothpaste container or clothes dipped in explosive material.[132] The group is reportedly led by Muhsin al-Fadhli, a leader of al-Qaeda according to the U.S. State department.[132] Intelligence officials expressed concern that the group may include militants who were taught by Ibrahim al-Asiri, the chief bomb maker for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who is known for his sophisticated bomb making techniques that nearly downed two Western airliners.[132]

Later statements by government officials indicated that the threat of a plot may have been less severe than initially reported.[133][134] One official indicated that "there did not yet seem to be a concrete plan in the works",[133] while another told The Guardian that "there was no indication of an imminent domestic threat from the group" at the time the United States began bombing.[134]

On November 6, a second round of airstrikes was launched against Khorasan and al-Nusra in northwestern Syria, along with Ahrar ash-Sham at its headquarters in Idlib, whose leadership had been infiltrated by al-Qaeda.[54] On November 13, 2014, the US launched a third set of airstrikes against Khorasan.[55] On November 19, the US carried out another airstrike on Khorasan near Hazm, which struck and destroyed a storage facility associated with the group.[56]

Syrian government involvement

Syria's government stated they were advised by the U.S. the day before air strikes.[83] Although Syria is fighting the ISIL militants it did not request the airstrikes. Assad's military possesses sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles, mostly near the capital of Damascus and the border with Israel, but not in ISIL controlled areas.[83] Syria In a statement on September 23, State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki stated that the U.S. did not request permission from Syrian authorities, nor did they coordinate their actions with the Syrian government, provide direct notification to the Syrian military, or give indication of timing on specific targets, but that they did notify the Syrian U.N. representative, which the Syrians confirmed.[131] The Pentagon’s director for operations described Syrian military radar as “passive” during the air strikes, with no attempt to counter US aircraft.[135] During the first night of attacks the United States' force deployed with HARM missiles as a precaution, uncertain as to how Syria's air-defense network would react.[136]

Civilian casualties

On September 29, 2014, multiple groups including the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Aleppo Media Center, and the Local Coordination Committees reported that U.S. strikes hit a grain silo in the ISIL-controlled town of Manbij in northern Syria, killing two civilians.[137][138] The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that 10 airstrikes, also targeting various parts of the province of Idlib, killed at least one child and six other civilians. The group stated that at least 19 civilians had been killed in coalition airstrikes.[139] The Pentagon reported that they had no evidence of any civilian casualties from airstrikes targeting militants in Syria.[140] The United States has also acknowledged that its rules to avoid civilian casualties are looser in Syria than those for drone strikes elsewhere.[72] The SOHR and other activist groups, reported that seven civilians were killed when an air strike hit a gas distribution facility near the town of al-Khasham is the eastern Deir al-Zor province on October 17, 2014 and three civilians were killed in an air strike on October 16, 2014 in the north east province of al-Hassakah. According to their reports, most of the slain civilians were fuel tanker drivers.[141][142] According to Reuters 50 civilians are killed in Syria by US-led strikes since the start of the campaign in late September 2014 against militant forces.[143]

Air supply

Beginning on October 20, 2014, the United States began airdropping supplies to Syrian Kurdish forces including the YPG in Kobanî.[144] The Kurdish forces there have been engaged in battle with ISIL as they laid siege to the city. Prior to October 20, the United States and its coalition partners fighting against ISIL in Syria, had not provided any supplies to Kurdish forces in their fight against ISIL.[144] Much of the reason for US having to airdrop supplies to Kurdish forces in Kobanî was due to the Turkish government's refusal to allow supplies to pass through their border. The US specifically airdropped weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies that were supplied to the US by Iraqi Kurdistan specifically to supply the Kurdish forces in Syria.[144] On October 21, a video was released by ISIL, showing what it claimed was a bundle of airdropped small arms, ammunition, and other supplies from the United States. The Pentagon stated that they were analyzing the video and could not at the time, confirm whether the video was authentic but that the materials were similar and video would be analyzed by the Department of Defense to confirm whether or not the video was authentic.[145] On October 22, the Pentagon confirmed that one of the airdrops made to YPG forces in Kobane had been intercepted by ISIL but that the one pallet most likely would not give ISIL any real advantage against the Kurds.[146]

Ground forces

Free Syrian Army soldiers cleaning their rifles in Aleppo

From the beginning of MIT intelligence service using its databases in order to select and screen an initial 2,000 rebels to undergo training.[154] As the Siege of Kobanî continues there have been growing calls to also arm the YPG, also known as the People's Protection Units, a Kurdish fighting force in Syria heavily involved in the defense of Kobanî.[155] On October 20, 2014, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced that the Turkish government would be allowing peshmerga from the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq to cross their border into Kobanî.[156] The change in policy comes after the Turkish government had refused to allow Kurdish fighters and supplies to pass through the border to YPG units in Kobanî, as they viewed them as an offshoot of the PKK.[157] On October 28, Peshmerga from the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq departed Erbil to travel to Turkey, in order to cross into Kobanî to assist Kurds already fighting there.[158] A total of 152 soldiers were deployed starting with forty vehicles carrying weapons, artillery, and machine guns, along with 80 of the Peshmerga forces, who would cross the border into Turkey by land with the heavy weapons, and drive to the border near Kobanî.[158] The other 72 soldiers in the contingent would fly to Turkey to rejoin the rest of the contingent on October 29.[158] On October 29, 150 Kurdish Peshmerga from Iraq and 50 Free Syrian Army fighters crossed the border into Kobanî with heavy weapons, small arms, and ammunition that were in short supply among Kurdish fighters in Kobanî.[5][29]

The late naming of operation Inherent Resolve

Unlike their coalition partners, and unlike previous U.S. combat operations, no name had been given to the 2014 conflict in Syria until it was announced in mid-October that the actions would go by the operational name Inherent Resolve.[159][160] The decision to keep the conflict nameless drew considerable media criticism.[161][162] U.S. Service members remain ineligible for campaign medals and other service decorations due to the continuing ambiguous nature of the continued U.S. involvement in Iraq.[163]

Turkish involvement

NATO member Turkey has been involved in the Syrian Civil War since its beginning. Turkey has trained and armed some members of the Free Syrian Army, and has been involved in spillover incidents, however, Turkey has not been involved in direct combat. On October 2, 2014, the Turkish Parliament authorized direct military action in both Iraq and Syria including using military force in Syria and Iraq as well as allowing coalition members to use bases in Turkey.[164]

Kurdish officials have accused Turkey of actually supporting ISIL, as the militants have been attacking Kurdish held areas in Syria right along the Turkish border with no action from Turkey.[165] Along not intervening against ISIL activities against Kurds, Kurdish officials have also accused Turkey of supporting ISIL by not controlling their border more effectively. Most of the foreign fighters arriving in Syria to fight with ISIL along with many of the weapons and supplies flowing to ISIL come through Turkey.[166]

Turkey also lined up tanks on its southern border near the border city of Kobanî, with the tanks pointed at the border.[165] Turkey also holds sovereignty over the Tomb of Suleyman Shah 35 km inside Syria, where it maintains a small garrison that is surrounded by ISIL controlled territory.

Turkey demanded several things to go along with their intervention including a buffer zone in Northern Syria, a no-fly zone over certain parts of northern Syria, ground troops from other countries, and training moderate opposition forces to fight both ISIL and al-Assad.[167][168]

Although there has been a massive refugee flow of an estimated 180,000 Kurds from Kobanî and surrounding villages, fleeing into Turkey, and 545 injured Kurdish fighters being treated in Turkish hospitals, Kurdish officials remain critical of Turkish action.[169][170] They raised the issue that Turkey will not allow any new Kurdish fighters to cross back into Kobanî to assist the YPG, and that Turkey will not allow any supplies, including ammunition, to be sent across the border to those fighters.

Reactions

Foreign reactions

  •  Australia – Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia, praised the strikes, saying that an international effort was needed in order to combat the Islamic State threat.[131] However, the Australian Government has stated that is not likely to contribute forces to operations in Syria.[171]
  •  Canada – Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, stated that Canada would strike Islamic State targets in Syria if the Assad government gave approval.[172]
  •  Ecuador – The Ecuadorian government opposes airstrikes in Syria without the government's consent.[173]
  •  Egypt - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi expressed his government’s support for the international campaign against ISIL and a spokesperson for the Egyptian foreign ministry echoed his statements by reiterating the Egyptian government's willingness to back the war against ISIL.[174][175]
  •  Germany - German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier questioned whether President Obama's plan was adequate in order to combat and stated that they had not been asked to participate in airstrikes nor would they if asked.[176]
  •  Iran - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned ISIL's actions but also called the airstrikes in Syria "illegal" because they were conducted without the consent of the Syrian government.[177] Iran’s deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian was reported in Iranian media as saying Iran had warned the United States that Israel would be at risk should the US and its allies seek to topple Syrian president Bashar al-Assad while fighting ISIL.[178]
  •  Israel - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that Israel fully supported the US government's calls for united action against ISIL.[176]
  •  Japan - A spokesperson for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the Japanese government would continue to closely coordinate with the United States and other countries, along with offering support and cooperation for their strikes against ISIL.[179]
  •  Netherlands – Mark Rutte, minister-president of the Netherlands, showed understanding for the strikes against the Islamic State in Syria and said that his government is currently exploring the options to contribute in the fight against IS.[180]
  •  Russia – Alexander Lukashevich, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, opposed the military intervention "without the consent of the legitimate government" and said that "this step, in the absence of a UN Security Council decision, would be an act of aggression, a gross violation of international law".[76]
  •  Turkey – The Davutoglu Government called on the Grand National Assembly of Turkey to approve measures that would grant extensive authority to the Erdoğan administration to launch military operations in both Syria and Iraq, including but not limited to sending troops across the border, although it is unclear whether the Turkish leadership intends to act on that authority. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has urged the establishment of a no-fly zone by coalition forces in northern Syria.[181]
  •  United Kingdom – A spokesperson for British Prime Minister David Cameron stated that the UK would not rule out airstrikes in Syria against ISIL.[176] On September 26, 2014 Parliament voted 524 to 43 to approve action inside Iraq.[182] While visiting Iraqi Kurdistan in mid October, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond stated that he saw no immediate demand from the U.S. and Arab militaries for Britain to extend its air strikes to Syria.[183] British Defense Minister Michael Fallon said October 21 that British Reaper drones and Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft would be starting intelligence-gathering missions in Syria "very shortly." [28]
  •  United Nations – Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, welcomed the airstrikes against militants in Syria, but noted that the involved parties "must abide by international humanitarian law and take all precautions to avoid and minimize civilian casualties".[184]
  •  Venezuela – At the 69th General Assembly of the United Nations, President Nicolas Maduro stated that "It's President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government which have stopped the terrorists" and continued by saying "Instead of bombing and bombing, we must make an alliance for peace".[185][186]

Syrian reactions

  •  Syria – A week before the missile strikes, Ali Haidar, Syrian minister of national reconciliation, said that "any action of any kind without the consent of the Syrian government would be an attack on Syria".[76] However, after the coalition campaign began, the Syrian government struck a more conciliatory tone, with Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem going so far as to suggest the airstrikes were an indication that Syria and the anti-ISIL coalition were on the same side.[187]
  • Syrian opposition – The leader of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which is recognized to be the legitimate representation of Syria in opposition to the Assad government, called for airstrikes before the campaign against ISIL got underway. Hadi Bahra said strikes were needed to weaken ISIL, a faction in the inter-rebel conflict during the Syrian Civil War, so the Free Syrian Army and other moderate opposition forces would oppose Assad more effectively.[188] However, many Syrian rebel groups have criticised U.S. airstrikes for targeting only ISIL who are enemies of the Assad government, while not also targeting Assad government forces, the results of which could help government forces gain more ground.[72] Meanwhile, jihadist groups within the opposition portray the coalition as an anti-Sunni stooge of the Syrian regime,[189] while Sunnis in Syria "fume that only extremist Sunnis are being hit," as crimes by Shiites go unpunished.[190] Some rebels have defected to extremist groups as a result of America’s decision to hit jihadist groups other than ISIS, convinced that America’s coalition is an ally of Assad.[191]

See also

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