The U.S. and several Middle Eastern allies began conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Syria tonight for the first time. The operation is expected to last several hours.
Targets reportedly include Raqqa, the city that ISIS (a.k.a. ISIL) has designated as its capital. The U.S. and its partners may be focusing on as many as 20 targets in this initial bombing run, including “buildings occupied by Islamic State leaders and the group’s training sites and arsenals,” the Washington Post reports. The U.S.-led air campaign is meant to undermine ISIS command and control and its ability to resupply and train, several news outlets have reported.
According to the New York Times, “American fighter jets and armed Predator and Reaper drones, flying alongside warplanes from several Arab allies, struck a broad array of targets in territory controlled by the militants, known as the Islamic State. American defense officials said the targets included weapons supplies, depots, barracks and buildings the militants use for command and control. Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from United States Navy ships in the region.”
On September 10, President Obama gave the go-ahead to the Tampa-based U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) to launch the airstrikes on Syrian territory. Previously, bombing raids against the ISIS terrorist army have been confined to northern Iraq. Several Arab countries including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates are participating in the coalition.
Last week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told lawmakers in Congress that “CENTCOM’s plan includes targeted actions against ISIL safe havens in Syria — including its command and control, logistics capabilities, and infrastructure. Our actions will not be restrained by a border that exists in name only.”
Pentagon spokesman Admiral John Kirby explained tonight that “I can confirm that U.S. military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIL terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.”
The administration is apparently telling the media that airstrikes will be scaled back after tonight.
Complicating the situation, the bombing raid on ISIS targets may wind up helping Syrian dictator Bashar Assad in his internecine struggle with ISIS as well as other militia groups for control of the country. “The strikes in Syria were not invited by the government of Bashar Assad who is waging a brutal civil war against opponents of his regime, including IS militants. It’s unclear how Assad will react to the U.S.-led attacks. His military possesses sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles, although most of them are near the capital of Damascus and near the border with Israel,” the Military Times explains.