During the Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011, the United States first supplied the rebels of the Free Syrian Army with non-lethal aid (including food rations and pickup trucks), but quickly began providing training, cash, and intelligence to selected Syrian rebel commanders.

The United States began surveillance missions on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) positions in Syria in September 2014. On 10 September, President of the United States Barack Obama gave a speech indicating his intent to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, 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.”

On 22 September 2014, the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates began to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant inside Syria, as well as the Khorasan group in the Idlib Governorate to the west of Aleppo and the al-Nusra Front around Raqqa, as part of the military intervention against ISIL.

On 2 November 2014, in response to the intervention, representatives from Ahrar ash-Sham, the al-Nusra Front, the Khorasan Group, the Islamic State, and Jund al-Aqsa attended a meeting which sought to unite several hard-line groups against the US-led coalition and other moderate Syrian rebel groups.

On 6 November, a US airstrike struck Ahrar ash-Sham at its headquarters in Idlib.

By 14 November 2014, it was revealed that the negotiations between al-Nusra, Jund al-Aqsa, ISIL and Ahrar ash-Sham had failed.

Background

Following the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, protests in Syria against the Assad administration were violently suppressed and a civil war began.[117] By 2012 there were several armed opposition groups operating in the country, including the Free Syrian Army, formed in July 2011 by by officers who defected from the Syrian Armed Forces. In 2012, 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 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.

 

Arming and training the Syrian opposition

At the direction of U.S. President Barack Obama, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was put in charge of the operations, worth about $1 billion annually, to arm anti-government forces in Syria, an operation which began in 2013, more than two years after the start of the civil war in 2011. Prior to 2013, the CIA only supplied certain rebel groups of the Free Syrian Army with non-lethal aid, but later began providing training, cash, and intelligence to selected rebel commanders.

While the CIA-run programs to arm and train Syrian opposition factions began in 2013, on 17 September 2014 the House of Representatives voted to authorize the executive branch to train and equip Syrian rebels against ISIL forces.

One of the groups that the United States intended to train and equip was the Islamist Army of Mujahedeen while the Harakat Hazm group was already being supplied.

There were indications that the Army of Mujahedeen was still being vetted for support.

The United States was set to send 400 troops and hundreds of support staff to countries neighboring Syria to train 5,000 opposition soldiers a year for the next three years.[131] The countries taking part in the train-and-equip program were to include Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. The Pentagon confirmed that it had selected 1,200 Syrian opposition members to begin training in March 2015, with 3,000 to complete training by the end of 2015.

However, of that number only about 200 actually began training, the majority of whom left after being required to agree to fight only against ISIL and not the Assad government.

As of mid-2015, only a group of 54 such fighters (Division 30) had been deployed, which was quickly routed by al-Nusra.

The successful experience in Kobanî had informed U.S. policy in regards to arming Syrian opposition groups other than the Kurdish YPG, with plans to give other groups technicals equipped with radio and GPS equipment to call in airstrikes.

John R. Allen, President Obama’s envoy to the international coalition against ISIL, has said “It is clearly part of our plan, that not only we will train them, and we will equip them with the latest weapons systems, but we will also protect them when the time comes,” alluding to aiding the opposition with air support and no fly zones. In March 2015, the United Kingdom announced that it was sending around 75 military instructors to train Syrian opposition forces.[136] The train-and-equip programme started on 9 May 2015.

On 25 May, Turkey and the U.S. agreed “in principle” on the necessity to support these forces with air support.

As of July 2016, extensive arms shipments were continuing.

 

July 2014 rescue mission

Following the abduction of a number of foreigners in Syria, on 4 July 2014, the U.S. carried out an operation to rescue foreign hostages being held by ISIL. U.S. airstrikes were conducted against an ISIL military base known as the “Osama bin Laden Camp” while at the same time, two dozen US special forces soldiers parachuted from helicopters near an ISIS building, thought to be for high-value prisoners. No prisoners were found in the building and the soldiers were quickly engaged by ISIL forces dispatched from Raqqa, which started a three-hour firefight. U.S. forces concluded that the hostages were no longer at the site and abandoned the rescue attempt. At least five ISIL fighters were killed and one U.S. soldier was wounded. Jordanian forces were also reportedly involved in the operation, with one Jordanian soldier reportedly wounded, but Jordanian involvement was not confirmed. Later on, it was reported that the hostages had been moved 24 hours before the attempted rescue.

Following the mission, it was still unclear whether the operation failed due to bad intelligence or whether ISIL forces were alerted in advance of the mission.

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 and Steven Sotloff on 19 August and 2 September respectively, and Briton David Haines on 13 September.

Surveillance flights over Syria

On 26 August 2014, the U.S. began sending surveillance flights, including drones, over Syria to gather intelligence on ISIL targets. The flights began gathering intelligence that would aid future airstrikes even though airstrikes were not yet authorized at that point. No approval was sought from the Assad government for flights entering Syrian airspace.

International coalitions against ISIL

On 5 September 15 September and 3 December 2014, different sets of countries came together to discuss concerted action against ISIL. Present at all three meetings were the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Turkey and Denmark.

The coalition of 5 September (10 countries) decided to support anti-ISIL forces in Iraq and Syria.

A coalition of 3 December 2014 (59 countries) agreed on a many-sided strategy against ISIL, including cutting off ISIL’s financing and funding and exposing ISIL’s true nature.

Training Syrian moderate opposition to fight ISIL

In late 2013 the United States began a program to train and equip Syrian “moderate rebels”. In July 2015 the first class of 54 US-backed rebels were inserted into Syria from Turkey. Within days, virtually all of the US-backed rebels were dead or missing, and their leader had been captured by the Al-Queda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.

In March 2015, the United Kingdom announced that it would provide military training to Syrian moderate opposition forces, to enable them to defend Syrian communities against ISIL, and later also lead offensives against ISIL.

Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that in December 2015 the U.S. shipped 994 tonnes of weapons and ammunition (including packaging and container weight), generally of Soviet-type from Eastern Europe, to Syrian rebel groups under operation Timber Sycamore. A detailed list of weapon types and shipment weights had been obtained from the US government’s Federal Business Opportunities website.

 

Multinational air war

 

Preparations for American airstrikes

In his address to the nation on 10 September 2014, U.S. President Obama announced his intention to bomb ISIL targets in Syria and called on Congress to authorize a program to train and arm rebels who were fighting ISIL and the Syrian forces of Bashar al-Assad.

For the first time, he authorized direct attacks against the militant group in Syria. In his address, he said the United States were going on offensive, launching “a steady, relentless effort to take out” the group “wherever they exist.” Obama also announced creating of a broader coalition against ISIL.

Commenting on Obama’s address, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich (ru) opposed the U.S. intervention against ISIL in Syria “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”.

On 17 September, the U.S. House of Representatives approved Obama’s plan to train and arm the Syrian rebels in their fight against ISIL. In a statement following the House vote, Obama said that the United States wouldn’t send military troops to Syria.[157] The Senate gave final congressional approval to Obama’s proposal the next day.[158]

The U.S. did not request permission from the Syrian government, nor did it coordinate its actions with the Syrian government, provide direct notification to the Syrian military or give indication of timing on specific targets, but it did notify the Syrian U.N. representative, which the Syrian government confirmed.

Before the airstrikes began, the United States also informed Iran, the Assad government’s largest regional ally, of their intention to launch airstrikes. It did not share specific timing or targets of strikes with the Iranian government but reportedly assured it that the US would not strike any Syrian government targets.

 

Contributing countries

– Australia (Operation Okra)

– Bahrain

– Belgium

– Canada (Operation Impact § In Syria – pulling out soon[161])

– France (Opération Chammal)

Germany (Operation Counter Daesh)

Italy

Netherlands on 29 January 2016 decided to start air attacks in Syria on ISIL (see Dutch involvement in the Syrian Civil War)

Jordan (Jordanian intervention in the Syrian Civil War)

Qatar

Saudi Arabia

Turkey (Turkish involvement in the Syrian Civil War)

United Arab Emirates

United Kingdom (Operation Shader § Intervention in Syria)

United States (Leader)

 

 

Timeline

 

2014

 

September 2014

 

On 22 September, 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 in strikes authorized by President Barack Obama. Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were identified as countries conducting or supporting airstrikes the first night.[11] The initial strikes were coordinated by United States Central Commandand targeted about 20 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant targets, including headquarters buildings.

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.

The U.S. also targeted the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front and the Khorasan Group in the Aleppo and Idlib Governorates of Syria.

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 ever since entering service in 2005.

At least 70 ISIL fighters, 50 fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda, and an unknown number of civilians were killed overnight by the airstrikes, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights while eight strikes were launched against the Khorasan group.

On 24 September, the United States and coalition partners conducted a second 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 which were most likely not refineries.

In a third round of airstrikes on ISIL targets on 25 September, 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.

On 26 September, 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.

In a fifth round of airstrikes in Syria on 27 September, the United States lead strikes along with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates against ISIL forces in the Kobanî 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.

On 28 and 29 September, 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 ISIL training camp and vehicles near an ISIL controlled grain silo in Manbij, Aleppo province.

 

October 2014

 

In an eighth round of airstrikes in Syria on 1 October, 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 People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Free Syrian Army, who were defending the city.

On 2 October, 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 several ISIL facilities east of Aleppo.

In a tenth round of airstrikes in Syria on 3 October, 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.

On 4 October, the United States lead an 11th 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 Raqqa, as well as destroying an IS depot and logistics complex south of Al-Hasakah.

In a 12th round of airstrikes in Syria on 5 October, 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 Mayadin, and destroyed six firing positions and a large ISIL unit northwest of Raqqa.

On 6 October, the United States carried out a 13th 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.

In a 14th round of airstrikes in Syria on 7 October, the United States, assisted by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against ISIL forces across Syria. The United States and partner nations carried out nine strikes damaging multiple ISIL controlled buildings west of Al-Hasakah, damaging a staging area and IED production facility northeast of Deir ez-Zor, destroying three armed vehicles, damaging one armed vehicle, destroying a vehicle carrying anti-aircraft artillery, destroying an ISIL tank, and an ISIL unit in and around Kobanî, and killing a small group of fighters southwest of Rabiyah.

On 8 October, the United States lead a 15th 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 in and around Kobanî, striking an ISIL training camp and fighters northwest of Raqqa, and destroying a tank northwest of Deir ez-Zor.

In a 16th round of airstrikes in Syria on 9 October, the United States carried out nine airstrikes in the areas in and 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.

On 10 October, the United States led a 17th round of airstrikes along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against ISIL forces across Syria. The US and coalition partners carried out nine strikes, destroying two ISIL training facilities, three vehicles, damaging a tank and striking two ISIL units in and 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.

In an 18th round of airstrikes in Syria on 11 October, the United States carried out six airstrikes in and 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.

On 12 October, the United States led a 19th 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 Raqqa, destroying an armored vehicle compound.

Also, on 12 October, 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 160 km (100 mi) from the Syrian border and important US military bases in Turkey such as the Incirlik Air Base.

Despite the announcement of Turkish government approval, on 13 October, Turkish officials denied that any agreement had been made over coalition use of Turkish Airbases including Incirlik.

In a 20th round of airstrikes in Syria on 13 October, the United States and Saudi Arabia carried out eight airstrikes against ISIL forces in Syria. The United States 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 Raqqa struck an ISIL garrison.

On 14 October, the United States and Saudi Arabia carried out the 21st 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 ISIL 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, one armed vehicle, and 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.

In a 22nd round of airstrikes on 15 October, the United States carried out 18 strikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî. The strikes destroyed multiple fighting positions and also successfully struck sixteen ISIL-occupied buildings.

On 16 October, the United States carried out a 23rd round of airstrikes with 14 airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî striking nineteen ISIL controlled-buildings, two command posts, three fighting positions, three sniper positions, one staging location, and one heavy machine gun position.

In a 24th round of airstrikes on 17 October, 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-Shaddadi struck ISIL-controlled oil collection equipment, including several petroleum, oil, and lubricants tanks, and a pump station.

On 20 October, the United States carried out a 25th 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.

In a 26th round of airstrikes on 21 October, 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.[194] The British Royal Air Force began operating over Syria in a surveillance role on the same date, making the UK the first Western country other than the United States to operate in both Iraq and Syria simultaneously.[74]

On 22 October, the United States carried out a 27th 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.

In a 28th round of airstrikes on 23 October, 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.

On 24 October, the United States carried out a 29th round of airstrikes with six airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî. The strikes destroyed an ISIL vehicle and struck three ISIL units.

In a 30th round of airstrikes on 25 October, the United States carried out one strike near Kobanî, destroying an ISIL artillery piece.

On 26 October, the United States carried out a 31st round of airstrikes with five airstrikes against ISIL targets near Kobanî, destroying seven ISIL vehicles and an ISIL-controlled building.

In a 32nd round of airstrikes on 27 October, the United States carried out four strikes near Kobanî, destroying five ISIL vehicles and an ISIL occupied building.

On 28 October, the United States carried out a 33rd round of airstrikes, with four airstrikes against ISIL targets near Kobanî, destroying four ISIL fighting positions and a small ISIL unit.

In a 34th round of airstrikes on 29 October, 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.

On 30 October, the United States carried out a 35th round of airstrikes, with 12 airstrikes against ISIL targets in and around Kobanî, and against targets near Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa. Ten 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 while another strike near Raqqa damaged an ISIL security building.[203]

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In a 36th round of airstrikes on 31 October, the United States carried out four airstrikes in and around Kobanî, damaging four ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL controlled building.

November 2014

On 1 November, the United States carried out a 37th 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.

In a 38th round of airstrikes on 2 November, the United States carried out seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Deir ez-Zor. Five airstrikes in and around Kobanî struck five small ISIL units and destroyed three ISIL vehicles. Two airstrikes southeast of Deir ez-Zor destroyed an ISIL tank and two vehicle shelters.

On 3 November, the United States and coalition partners carried out a 39th 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.

In a 40th round of airstrikes on 4 and 5 November, 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. One 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.

On 6 and 7 November, the United States carried out a 41st 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.

In a 42nd round of airstrikes between 8 and 10 November, the United States carried out 23 airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Deir ez-Zor. Thirteen airstrikes conducted in and around Kobanî 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.

Between 11 and 12 November, the United States carried out a 43rd 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. Four airstrikes near Deir ez-Zor damaged an ISIL crude oil collection facility, struck a small ISIL unit, and damaged an ISIL vehicle. Two airstrikes near Al-Hasakah damaged a crude oil collection point.

In a 44th round of airstrikes between 13 and 14 November, the United States carried out 20 airstrikes in and around Kobanî, east of Deir ez-Zor, west of Aleppo, and east of Raqqa. Seventeen airstrikes conducted in and around Kobanî struck ten ISIL units, destroyed 10 fighting positions, an ISIL controlled building, two ISIL vehicles, and an ISIL motorcycle. One airstrike east of Raqqa destroyed an ISIL training camp and another airstrike east of Deir ez-Zor destroyed an ISIL oil collection point. One other airstrike west of Aleppo struck militants associated with the Khorasan group.

Between 15 and 17 November, the United States carried out a 45th round of airstrikes with eleven airstrikes 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.[205]

In a 46th round of airstrikes between 18 and 19 November, the United States carried out seven airstrikes 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 while another airstrike near Hazm struck and destroyed a storage facility associated with the Khorasan Group.

Between 20 and 21 November, the United States and coalition partners carried out a 47th round of airstrikes with seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Raqqa. Six airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed four ISIL staging areas, two ISIL controlled buildings, two ISIL tactical units, and suppressed an ISIL fighting position. One airstrike near Raqqa damaged an ISIL barracks building.

In a 48th round of airstrikes between 22 and 24 November, the United States and coalition partners carried out nine airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Raqqa. Seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed three ISIL fighting positions along with two ISIL staging areas, damaged an ISIL staging area, and suppressed four ISIL fighting positions. Two strikes near Raqqa struck an ISIL headquarters building.

Between 25 and 26 November, the United States carried out a 49th round of airstrikes with ten airstrikes in and around Kobanî striking an ISIL fighting position, a large ISIL unit, two tactical ISIL units, and destroying four ISIL staging areasand six ISIL fighting positions.

In a 50th round of airstrikes between 27 and 28 November, the United States carried out two airstrikes near Kobanî and Aleppo. One airstrike near Kobanî struck an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL staging area while one airstrike near Aleppo struck a tactical ISIL unit.

Between 29 November and 1 December, the United States carried out a 51st round of airstrikes with 27 airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Raqqa, and near Aleppo. Seventeen airstrikes near Kobanî destroyed two ISIL-occupied buildings, three ISIL tanks, three ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL armored personnel carrier, three ISIL vehicles and two ISIL staging areas. It also struck seven tactical ISIL units, targeted six ISIL fighting positions and damaged an ISIL controlled building. Nine airstrikes near Raqqa struck an ISIL electronic warfare garrison, an ISIL military garrison, an ISIL headquarters building, an ISIL jamming system, an ISIL tank and fourteen ISIL vehicles while one airstrike near Aleppo struck a target associated with the Khorasan Group.

December 2014

In a 52nd round of airstrikes between 1 and 3 December, the United States carried out fourteen airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroying an ISIL vehicle, seventeen ISIL fighting positions, and an ISIL staging area, and suppressed eight other fighting positions and striking a large ISIL unit.

Between 4 and 8 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out a 53rd round of airstrikes with fifteen airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Raqqa. Fourteen airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed four ISIL fighting positions, three ISIL-occupied buildings, two ISIL staging areas, two ISIL tanks, an ISIL motorcycle, a mortar, and struck eight tactical ISIL units along with two ISIL fighting positions. One airstrike near Raqqa struck an ISIL electronic warfare garrison.

In a 54th round of airstrikes between 9 and 10 December, the United States carried out seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroying five ISIL fighting positions, striking three ISIL fighting positions, and striking a large ISIL unit.

Between 11 and 12 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out a 55th round of airstrikes with seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Aleppo, and near Al-Qa’im. Five airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed five ISIL fighting positions and struck one ISIL fighting position. One airstrike near Aleppo struck five ISIL-occupied buildings while another airstrike near Al-Qa’im on the Syrian border destroyed two ISIL fortifications.[

In a 56th round of airstrikes between 13 and 15 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out nine airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Abu Kamal. Eight airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed nine ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL controlled buildings, and two ISIL staging positions as well as striking one ISIL fighting position. One airstrike near Abu Kamal destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

Between 16 and 17 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out a 57th round of airstrikes with six airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Abu Kamal. Five airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed an ISIL controlled building, one ISIL staging area, one ISIL bunker, and an ISIL mortar, and strucktwo ISIL tactical units, two additional buildings, and two ISIL fighting positions. One airstrike near Abu Kamal destroyed an ISIL tactical vehicle.

In a 58th round of airstrikes on 18 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out six airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroying seven ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL building, and struckj an ISIL tactical unit.

On 19 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out a 59th round of airstrikes with four strikes in and around Kobanî and near Raqqa. Three airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed two ISIL controlled buildings and an ISIL staging area as well as striking two ISIL tactical units. One airstrike near Raqqa damaged an ISIL training compound.

In a 60th round of airstrikes on 20 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out five airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroying eight ISIL fighting positions.

On 21 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out a 61st round of airstrikes with three strikes in and around Kobanî destroying an ISIL staging position and two ISIL fighting positions as well as striking two ISIL fighting positions.[205]

In a 62nd round of airstrikes on 22 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out 12 airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Aleppo, near Al-Hasakah, and near Raqqa. Six airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed six ISIL fighting positions and struck four ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL tactical unit. Three airstrikes near Aleppodestroyed artillery equipment and struck 10 ISIL buildings, two airstrikes near Al-Hasakah destroyed an ISIL tactical vehicle, two ISIL trucks, an ISIL building, and two ISIL storage containers, and one airstrike near Raqqa destroyed an ISIL checkpoint complex.

On 23 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out a 63rd round of airstrikes with seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Bargooth. Six airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed seven ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL building and struck several ISIL fighting positions and one airstrike near Barghooth struck ISIL oil collection equipment.

In a 64th round of airstrikes on 24 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out ten airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Deir ez-Zor, and near Raqqa. Eight airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed five ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL building, an ISIL staging position, and struck three ISIL tactical units, an ISIL tactical vehicle and an ISIL fighting position. One airstrike near Deir ez-Zor struck a crude oil collection point and another airstrike near Raqqa struck an ISIL weapons stockpile.

On 25 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out a 65th round of airstrikes with fifteen airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Al-Hasakah, and near Raqqa. Thirteen airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed three ISIL buildings, one ISIL vehicle, 17 ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL staging positions as well as striking two ISIL fighting positions, three large ISIL units and four ISIL tactical units. One airstrike near Al-Hasakah struck an ISIL drilling tower and destroyed 2 ISIL support vehicles and another airstrike near Raqqa struck an ISIL assembly area.

In a 66th round of airstrikes on 26 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out four airstrikes in and around Kobanî, destroying three ISIL buildings and two ISIL vehicles.

On 29 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out a 67th round of airstrikes with twelve airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Deir ez-Zor, and near Raqqa. Ten airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed 11 ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL buildings, and an ISIL storage container, and struck an ISIL tactical unit. One airstrike near Deir ez-Zor struck several ISIL controlled buildings while another airstrike near Raqqa also struck several ISIL controlled buildings.

In a 68th round of airstrikes on 30 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Deir ez-Zor. Six airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed three ISIL buildings, damaged one ISIL building, and struck an ISIL tactical unit while one airstrike near Deir ez-Zor destroyed an ISIL shipping container.

On 31 December, the United States and coalition partners carried out a 69th round of airstrikes with seven airstrikes in and around Kobanî and near Al-Hasakah. Five airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed five ISIL buildings and six ISIL fighting positions while two airstrikes near Al-Hasakah destroyed four oil derricks controlled by ISIL.

 

2015

 

January 2015

 

In a 70th round of airstrikes on 1 January, the United States and coalition partners carried out 17 airstrikes in and around Kobanî, near Deir ez-Zor, and near Raqqa. Thirteen airstrikes in and around Kobanî destroyed 12 ISIL controlled buildings, four ISIL fighting positions, one ISIL vehicle as well as striking two ISIL tactical units and two large ISIL units. Two airstrikes near Raqqa destroyed five ISIL checkpoints and struck an ISIL staging area, while two airstrikes near Deir ez-Zor destroyed an ISIL fighting position and struck an ISIL shipping container.

February 2015

On 5 February 2015, Jordan elevated its role in the U.S.-led coalition in Syria, launching one of the largest airstrike campaigns since early January 2015, targeting ISIL militants near Raqqa, the de facto ISIL capital, inflicting an unknown number of casualties and damaging ISIL facilities. This was done in retaliation against ISIL’s brutal murder of Muath al-Kasasbeh.

On 6 February, a continued round of Coalition airstrikes at Raqqa killed over 30 ISIL militants.

On 21 February, Syrian Kurds launched an offensive to retake ISIL-held territories in the Al-Hasakah Governorate, specifically in the Tell Hamis area, with support from US airstrikes. At least 20 villages were liberated, and 12 militants were killed in the clashes.[231] In response, on 23 February, ISIL abducted 150 Assyrian Christians from villages near Tal Tamr (Tell Tamer) in northeastern Syria, after launching a large offensive in the region.

As a result of ISIL’s massive offensive in the west Al-Hasakah Governorate, the US-led coalition increased the number of airstrikes in the region to 10, on 24 February, in order to halt the ISIL advance. The airstrikes struck nine ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL vehicles.

On 26 February, the number of Assyrian Christians abducted by ISIL from villages in northeastern Syria from 23–25 February rose to at least 220, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a monitoring group based in Britain.

On 27 February, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party and Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that Kurdish fighters had recaptured the town of Tal Hamis, along with most of the villages occupied by ISIL in the region. At least 127 ISIL militants were killed in the clashes, along with 30 YPG and allied fighters.[236] One Australian volunteer, who was fighting for the YPG, was also killed.[237] Many of the remaining ISIL militants retreated to Tell Brak, which quickly came under assault from the YPG and allied Arab fighters.

March 2015

On 1 March 2015, YPG fighters, aided by US airstrikes, were able to drive ISIL militants out of Tell Brak, reducing the ISIL occupation in the eastern Jazira Canton to the villages between Tell Brak and Tal Hamis.

On 6 March, it was reported that Abu Humam al-Shami, al-Nusra’s military chief, was killed in a US airstrike targeting a meeting of top al-Nusra leaders, at the al-Nusra Front’s new headquarters at Salqin.

On 9 March, the US carried out another airstrike on the al-Nusra Front, targeting a military camp near Atimah, close to the Turkish border in the Idlib Governorate. The airstrike left 9 militants dead.

On 24 March, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada would be looking to expand Operation Impact to include airstrikes against ISIL in Syria as well.

On 26 March, the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence announced the deployment of around 75 military trainers and headquarter staff to Turkey, and other nearby countries in the anti-ISIL coalition, to assist with the U.S.-led training programme in Syria. The training programme will provide small arms, infantry tactics and medical training to Syrian moderate opposition forces for over three years.

On 30 March, the House of Commons of Canada authorized the extended deployment of its military for one year and the war in Syria.

 

April 2015

 

On 8 April, Canada initiated airstrikes in Syria, with two CF-18 fighters bombing a former military installation of the Syrian government that was captured by ISIL, near its headquarters in Raqqa.

May 2015

On 15 May, after surveillance by British special forces confirmed the presence of a senior leader named Abu Sayyaf in al-Amr, 1st SFOD-Delta operators from the Joint Special Operations Command based in Iraq conducted an operation to capture him. The operation resulted in his death when he tried to engage U.S. forces in combat and the capture of his wife Umm Sayyaf. The operation also led to the freeing of a Yazidi woman who was held as a slave. About a dozen ISIL fighters were also killed in the raid, two U.S. officials said. The SOHR reported that an additional 19 ISIL fighters were killed in the US airstrikes that accompanied the raid. One official said that ISIL Forces fired at the U.S. aircraft, and there was reportedly hand-to-hand combat during the raid. UH-60 Black Hawk and V-22 Osprey helicopters were used to conduct the raid, and Umm Sayyaf is currently being held by U.S. Forces in Iraq.

CNN reported that a senior US military official revelaed that in May 2015, US special operations forces came “tantalisingly close” to capturing or killing ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in Raqqa, but failed to do so because classified information was leaked to the news media.

July 2015

Following a suicide bombing in the Şanlıurfa Province of Turkey believed to have been carried out by ISIL militants on 20 July, as well as an ISIL cross-border attack that killed a Turkish serviceman on 23 July, Turkish armour and aircraft struck ISIL targets just across the border in Syria. Turkey also agreed to let the United States use the USAF Incirlik Air Base for strikes against ISIL.

August 2015

On 21 August, three Islamic State fighters, two with UK nationality, were targeted and killed in Raqqa, Syria by a British Royal Air Force MQ-9 Reaper strike. Prime Minister David Cameron gave a statement to Parliament that one of the British nationals targeted had been plotting attacks in the United Kingdom. Another British national was killed in a separate air strike by US forces in Raqqa on 24 August.

October 2015

50 U.S. Special forces operators were deployed to northern Syria to help train and coordinate anti-IS forces in the region.

The introduction of Russian aircraft and ship based cruise missiles in support of the Syrian Government to Syrian airspace creates new threats to the US-led coalition. Discussions are held to deconflict Syrian airspace.

On 10 October, the state run Syrian Arab News Agency reported claims that two U.S. General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon jets had “violated Syrian airspace” and bombed two electricity power plants in al-Rudwaniya, east Aleppo, “in breach of international law”.

On 20 October Canada’s Prime Minister elect Justin Trudeau informed Barack Obama by phone of Canada’s intention to pull out of bombing raids in Syria. Canada will remain a coalition partner but will stop strikes.[249]

November 2015

After the deadly attacks in Paris, French President Francois Hollande sent its only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, with its 26 fighters to intensify air strikes.

On 27 November, Syrian Arab News Agency reported The US-led international coalition, allegedly fighting ISIS, targeted water pumping stations in al-Khafseh area, east of Aleppo, causing them to go out of service.

According to Bellingcat investigation it was Russian MoD bombing

December 2015

On 2 December 2015, the Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom voted 397 to 223 in favour of airstrikes in Syria.[254] Within hours, RAF Tornado jets carried out their first air strikes, targeting the Omar oil fields in eastern Syria, which is under IS control.

On 6 December 2015, a Syrian Arab Army base at Deir ez-Ezzor was struck, killing at least 1 Syrian Arab Army soldier, with reports circulating that as many as 4 were killed, 13 wounded and 2 tanks destroyed. Syria accused the US of conducting the strike, however US officials denied this, claiming instead that the bombing was a mistake by Russians.

After the airstrikes, ISIS forces began to attack the base.

 

2016

 

March 2016

 

On 4 March, a US-led Coalition airstrike targeted Omar al-Shishani, ISIL’s top field commander, who was travelling in a jihadist’s convoy near al-Shaddadi in northeastern Syria; the strike injured him, and he later died from his injuries, However this was later revealed to be incorrect, he was actually killed in an airstrike in Iraq in July 2016. Also that day, 100 ISIS militants assaulted Peshmerga lines in Syria, U.S. Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV helped the Peshmerga to repel the attack, as ISIS fighters sent a car bomb towards him, Keating led a team to counterattack with sniper and rocket fire. For his actions during the battle he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

On 24 March, U.S. special operations forces conducted an operation with the intent of capturing Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli in Syria. Al-Qaduli, who was the 6th-most-wanted terrorist in the world and is considered by analysts as the second-in-command of ISIS, he acted as the group’s finance minister and was involved in external plots, he also temporarily commanded ISIS after its commander was injured. U.S. special forces inserted by helicopter and lay in wait for him to intercept his vehicle; the operators attempted to capture him but the situation escalated and at the last moment, they decided to fire on the vehicle instead, killing al-Qaduli and 3 other militants.

April 2016

On 25 April, it was reported that President Obama authorized the deployment of an additional 250 Special Operations Forces soldiers to Syria in the following weeks, they will join the 50 that are already in the country, their main aim is to advise, assist and expand the ongoing effort to bring more Syrian Arab fighters into units the U.S. supports in northern Syria to combat ISIL.

May 2016

In late May, more than a dozen U.S. Special Forces were pictured in the village of Fatisah, less than 64 km (40 mi) north of Raqqa, and fighting near the front lines with the YPG and wearing both YPG and US insignia on their military uniforms; helping them and other local SDF forces with fire support and coordinating airstrikes from behind the front lines in their advance toward Raqqa. However, the Pentagon and White House insist that the troops are not fighting ISIS on the front lines and are still participating in a non-combat mission known as “train, advise and assist.”

Also in late May, a U.S. special forces operator was wounded north of Raqqa by indirect IS rocket or mortar fire.

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The telegraph reported that British special forces have been operating on the frontline in Syria; in particular in May when they frequently crossed the border from Jordan to defend a NSA (New Syrian Army) unit composed of former Syrian special forces as it defends the village of al-Tanf against ISIL attacks. They mostly help the unit with logistics like building defences and making bunkers safe, the NSA captured the village that month and faced regular IS attacks, an ISIL armoured vehicle packed with explosives drove into the rebels’ base and killed 11 members of the NSA, injuring 17 others. The wounded were CASEVAC’d by US helicopters to Jordan; the suicide attack damaged the structure of the al-Tanf base, British troops crossed over from Jordan to help them to rebuild their defences.

June 2016

On 1 June, a senior defense official told Fox News that a “thousands”-strong SDF force consisting of Sunni Arab fighter and a small contingent of Kurdish fighters (mainly from the YPG) with assistance by U.S. special forces operators and U.S. fighter jets launched an operation to recapture the key ISIS-held town of Manbij in northern Syria, 32 km (20 mi) from the border with Turkey. Islamic State used the town to move supplies and foreign fighters into Syria from Turkey, in the 24 hours since the start of offensive, 18 U.S. airstrikes destroyed ISIS headquarters buildings, weapons caches, training areas, six bridges and an unknown number of ISIS fighters were killed, however 15 civilians killed.

By 9 June, The U.S. Central Command said the coalition conducted more than 105 strikes in support of the SDF’s advance, French special forces are also offering training and advice to SDF fighters in the area. On 15 June, British special forces were reported to be operating in the area, much of the SDF advance was made possible by US-led coalition air support, with air strikes being directed by foreign special forces personnel on the ground.

On 3 June, F/A-18 Hornets launched from the USS Harry S. Truman conducted air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria from the eastern Mediterranean. It was the first time the U.S. Navy had conducted strike missions in the Middle East from the Mediterranean Sea since flying operations against the Iraqi military in 2003.

On 9 June, Four U.S. special operations troops were “lightly” wounded by shrapnel when an Islamic State anti-tank missile fired at a nearby vehicle exploded in northern Syria, but they quickly returned to duty.

On 16 June, as part of Russia’s campaign to pressure the US to agree to closer cooperation over Syria, Russian military aircraft bombed, with cluster bombs, a military outpost in al-Tanf that was garrisoned by the New Syrian Army in south east Syria. US and British special forces based in Jordan regularly worked with Syrian rebels at the al-Tanf outpost, the airstrike happened 24 hours after a detachment of 20 British special forces left the outpost. After the airstrike took place, US commanders warned Russia that the garrison was part of the international coalition against IS and therefore shouldn’t be attacked, but 90 minutes later, nearby US warplanes observed Russian jets dropping a second barrage of bombs on the outpost, killing 4 rebel soldiers. A US spy plane overhead tried to contact the Russian pilots on emergency frequencies, but the Russians did not answer. US officials demanded an explanation from Moscow, but they were told the Russian pilots struck the outpost because they thought it was ISIL base, Russian officials then said that Jordan had approved the strikes in advance, but Jordan denied it. Moscow also claimed its air command headquarters in Syria was unable to call off the strikes because the US had not given them the precise position of the outpost.

On 29 June, as part of the 2016 Abu Kamal offensive — the offensive by the New Syrian Army and several hundred other rebels from different factions that aims to capture Abu Kamal and sever ISISs transit link between Syria and Iraq; Pentagon-trained rebel forces entered the al-Hamdan air base — 5 km (3 mi) northwest of the border town Abu Kamal following intense clashes. This followed significant advances into ISIL-held territory near the Abu Kamal border crossing, the NSA (New Syrian Army) said it had captured a number of IS positions on the outskirts of Abu Kamal, but a raid into the town at dawn was reported to have been repelled by militants. Fighting continued around the town, as coalition airstrikes were carried out on IS hidehouts; the NSA also said it was co-ordinating the assault with Iraqi government forces, who were advancing on the border from the other side. NSA issued a statement saying “the NSA maintains control of the desert, the approaches to Abu Kamal, and maintains freedom of manoeuvre”. later on that day, IS militants ambushed the rebels, inflicting heavy casualties and seizing weapons according to a rebel source. IS retook the airbase from the NSA and continued to advance against the rebels, recapturing some of the outposts the NSA had captured south of the town; coalition helicopters dropped in “foreign” airborne troops on the southern edge of Abu Kamal to help the rebels in their advance, coalition jets also carried out 8 airstrikes on IS targets in the Abu Kamal area.

A contributing reasons for the failure of the operation was the withdrawing of air support at a critical moment, the aircraft assigned to the operation were ordered in the middle of the operation to leave the area and instead fly to the outskirts of Fallujah, where a large convoy of IS fighters had been seen trying to escape across the desert after the city was recaptured by the Iraqi army, and U.S. commanders decided that the convoy represented a “strategic target.” The convoy was destroyed by the U.S. and British planes along with gunships and aircraft from the Iraqi air force.

August 2016

On 7 August, as part of Operation Tidal Wave II, “Multiple” coalition warplanes destroyed some 83 oil tankers used by the Islamic State near Abu Kamal.

CNN reported that US and coalition carried out airstrikes in support of the Turkish intervention in Syria with Syrian opposition forces in August 2016, who seized the town of Jarabulus from ISIS and pushed south and west in an effort to clear the terror group from its border. US Special Operations Forces had initially intended to accompany the offensive but the US was still working on approving the proposal when Turkish units pushed across the border.

On 30 August, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Al-Bab, the New York times reported that he was travelling in a vehicle that was destroyed by the drone. CNN reported that Al-Adnani was a key deputy to IS’s leader, he also acted as the principal architect in ISIS’S external operations and as the group’s spokesman, he coordinated the movements of their fighters – directly encouraging them to carryout lone-wolf attacks on civilians and military targets. It marked the highest-profile killing of an ISIS member.

September 2016

On 8 September, an airstrike allegedly carried out by the United States, killed Abu Hajer al-Homsi (nom de guerre Abu Omar Saraqib), the top military commander of the renamed al-Nusra Front, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, in the countryside of the Aleppo Governorate. Abu Hajer al-Homsi was one of the founding members of the al-Nusra Front and had taken part in the Iraq War against the US when he was part of the processor organization al-Qaeda in Iraq.[49] The Pentagon denied carrying out the strike and instead claimed Russia was responsible.

On 16 September, CNN reported that Up to 40 US Special Operations Forces are accompanying Turkish troops and vetted Syrian opposition forces as they clear ISIS from northern Syria, the mission was called Operation Noble Lance was authorised that week and is now underway. The US personnel will be conducting the same type of advising, assisting and training missions that the US had been providing to moderate opposition to local anti-ISIS forces.[289] The Washington Post reported that the contingent of Special Operations forces assisting the Turkish and Syrian forces around the cities of Jarabulus and Al-Rai was sent at the request of the Turkish government.

On 17 September, two US planes A-10, two Danish F-16 and a UK Reaper drone[295][296] mistakenly bombed a Syrian Army base in the city of Deir ez-Zor which is besieged by ISIL. More than 62 soldiers were killed and at least 100 were wounded in the airstrike.[297][298] ISIL forces attacked immediately after air-strike and took the local high point (with strategic importance) near Deir ez-Zor air-base: the Tharda (Thurda) mountain. SAA forces made a counter-attack (supported by Russian\Syrian air-strikes) and recapture the Tharda mountain by the end of the day, suffering additional losses (including one Syrian jet fighter).

USAF immediately issued the official explanation – it was a navigation\intelligence mistake and bombing was stopped after Russian Air Force contact group informed them about the SAA loses.

Danish Air Force confirmed that their two F-16 fighters participated in the air-strike, insisting that it was stopped in split second after message from Russians came, explaining it as a mistake and regretting the losses.

Russian officials accused USA in helping the ISIL by the air-raid.

Russia has called for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council over the airstrike and the US temporarily ceased air-strikes in the area.

 

October 2016

 

On 3 October, Ahmad Salama Mabruk, a senior al-Nusra Front and previously Egyptian Islamic Jihad commander, was killed by an air-to-surface missile launched by a US unmanned aerial vehicle in Jisr al-Shughur.[52][306]

November 2016

On 18 November, an US airstrike killed an Afghan al-Nusra Front commander, Abu Afghan al-Masri, in the town of Sarmada.

On 24 November, the Washington Post reported that Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott C. Dayton of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2 was killed by an IED near Ayn Issa – roughly 35 miles northwest of the ISIS’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa. It was the first time a U.S. service member has been killed in Syria since a contingent of Special Operations forces was deployed there in October 2015.

CNN reported that on 26 November, a US drone strike in Raqqa killed Boubaker Hakim, a senior ISIS terrorist suspected of enabling the Sousse terrorist attack (he had connections to the Tunisian IS cell that carried out the attack and the Bardo National Museum attack. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. “His removal degrades ISIL’s ability to conduct further attacks in the West and denies ISIL a veteran extremist with extensive ties.”[

Stars and Stripes reported that in November 2016 Airman from the 621st Contingency Response Wing with a contingent of civil engineers, intelligence personnel and security forces were temporarily deployed to expand and modify the airstrip that the Airmen had established earlier in 2016 at an air base where they deployed to near Kobani, so it can be used effectively to assist in the offensive to retake Raqqa. The airbase gives the US an additional location for its aircraft to support U.S. and other anti-ISIS forces, but it had been used by US forces limitedly due to the condition of the runway which restricted what types of aircraft could land there. General Carlton Everhart II, commander of US Air Mobility Command, said that the base enables aircraft to deliver critical supplies, equipment and help position forces, he added that airmen from the 621st group have supported anti-ISIS coalition forces on the ground in Syria.

December 2016

On 4 December, it was reported that a US airstrike in Raqqa killed three key IS leaders, two of whom (Salah Gourmat and Sammy Djedou) were involved in plotting the November 2015 Paris attacks.

On 8 December, during the 4th Palmyra offensive, US-led coalition warplanes bombed an IS convoy near Palmyra in central Syria and destroyed 168 trucks carrying petroleum.

On 10 December, it was reported that the US is sending 200 more U.S. Special Operations personnel to Syria, joining the 300 US special forces already in the country. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the troops would include special forces trainers, advisers and bomb disposal teams and that they will “continue organising, training, equipping, and otherwise enabling capable, motivated, local forces” to take the fight to IS. In particular, the troops will assist SDF forces in the Raqqa offensive; France also has Special Operations units in the country.

The New York Times reported that on 15 December, coalition warplanes destroyed 14 Syrian Army T-72 battle tanks, 3 artillery systems and a number of buildings and vehicles that IS militants were using at a military base in central Syria that IS had seized the previous weekend from Syrian troops and their Russian advisers.

On 31 December, a Coalition airstrike in Raqqa killed Mahmud al-Isawi, al-Isawi was an ISIL member who supported the organization’s media and intelligence structure in Fallujah before relocating to Raqqa. His role in the group was controlling the flow of instructions and finances between ISIL-held areas and ISIL leaders and provided support to propaganda and intelligence outlets; he was also known to have facilitated trans-regional travel with other ISIL external operations coordinators and had a close working and personal relationship with Abd al-Basit al-Iraqi, the emir of ISIL’s Middle East attack network.

 

2017

 

January 2017

 

On 1 January, a US drone strike killed Abu Omar al-Turkistani, a Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and Turkistan Islamic Party military commander, and 3 other JFS members near the town of Sarmada in the northern Idlib Governorate.

On 2 January, more than 25 JFS members were killed in an air raid by suspected US planes.

On 6 January, as part of the Raqqa offensive, SDF forces supported by American special forces and international coalition aircraft seized Qalaat Jaabar fortress after fierce fighting with IS jihadists.

On 8 January, the coalition forces conducted a landing operation into the road between the villages of Jazra and Kabr in the western Deir ez-Zor Governorate from 4 helicopters. The landing forces had set up checkpoints on the road and raided a water plant in Kabr, where they killed and captured a number of ISIL fighters. After an hour and 15 minutes, the forces withdrew.

On 11 January, air-to-surface missile launched from suspected US aircraft hit a Fatah al-Sham convoy consisting of 5 vehicles and killed 14 JFS members.

On 17 January, separate US airstrikes in the Idlib Governorate killed Mohammad Habib Boussaboun al-Tunisi and Abd al-Jalil al-Muslimi, two Tunisian al-Qaeda external operations leaders. Also that day, it was reported that U.S. warplanes and combat advisers are supporting Turkish military units battling IS fighters in northern Syria, particularly at the Battle of al-Bab.

On 19 January, US airstrikes by Boeing B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers struck the former Syrian Army Sheikh Suleiman military base near Darat Izza, in western Aleppo, which was used by Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement. The airstrike killed at least 110 al-Qaeda fighters and some al-Zenki fighters,[326][327] including Abu Hasan al-Taftanaz, an al-Qaeda senior leader. Since 1 January 2017, more than 150 AQ members were killed by US airstrikes in 2017. The Sheikh Suleiman base had been operated as a training camp by Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and al-Zenki since 2013.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, U.S.-led Coalition airstrikes have killed 7,043 people across Syria, of which: 5,768 dead were ISIL fighters, 304 Al-Nusra Front militants and other rebels, 90 government soldiers and 881 civilians. The air strikes occurred in the period between 22 September 2014 and 23 January 2017.

February 2017

On 1 February 2017, it was reported that the US had conducted an airstrike on Carlton Hotel, in the city of Idlib, which was used by Tahrir al-Sham’s former al-Nusra component for troop housing, and hosting meetings of prominent commanders. On the same day, the Elite Islamic Battalions of the FSA was attacked by Tahrir al-Sham.

On 2 February 2017, Sky News reported that Turkish aircraft killed 51 IS fighters in the space of 24 hours in the areas of a-Bab, Tadef, Qabasin, and Bizaah, the airstrikes targeted buildings and vehicles resulting in 85 IS positions destroyed. According to the Turkish military command, since the beginning of Operation Euphrates Shield, at least 1,775 IS militants have been “neutralised,” with more than 1,500 of those killed.

On 3 February, US airstrikes hit Jund al-Aqsa and Tahrir al-Sham positions in Sarmin, near Idlib, and killed more than 12 militants. On the same day, the Royal Jordanian Air Force launched several airstrikes on ISIL outposts in southern Syria.

On 4 February 2017, a US airstrike killed al-Qaeda commander Abu Hani al-Masri, who was a part of Ahrar al-Sham at the time of his death. It was reported that he was about to defect to Tahrir al-Sham before his death.

Tariq Abdelhaleem tweeted his condolences upon the death of Abu Hani al Masri.

On 26 February, in Al-Mastoumeh, Idlib, a US drone strike killed Abu Khayr al-Masri, who was the deputy leader of al-Qaeda.

He was part of a prisoner swap between Iran and al-Qaeda.

The US airstrike also killed another Tahrir al-Sham militant, who was traveling in the same car. Tariq Abdelhaleem tweeted his condolences upon the death of Abu Khayr al-Masri.

The leader of the Liwa Omar al-Farouq Brigade in Ahrar Al-Sham, Abu Abdul Maluk (Mahmoud Nemah), condemned the killing of Abu Khayr al-Masri.

After Nasir al-Wuhayshi, it was one of the most important liquidations.

 

March 2017

 

On 8 March, various news outlets reported that conventional US troops as part of an amphibious task force left their ships in the Middle East and deployed to Syria, where they established an outpost from which they can provide artillery support for U.S.-backed local forces who are preparing an assault Raqqa in the battle to liberate the city from IS militants. The deployment marks a new escalation in the U.S. war in Syria, and puts more conventional U.S. troops in the battle, that until now had primarily used Special Operations units. The force is part of the 11th MEU, 400 US Marines from the Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines will crew an artillery battery of M-777 Howitzers; whilst additional infantrymen from the unit will provide security, while resupplies will be handled by part of the expeditionary force’s combat logistics element. A defense official with direct knowledge of the operation said the Marines were flown from Djibouti to Kuwait and then into Syria. There are 900 US soldiers and Marines deployed to Syria in total (500 special forces troops were already on the ground to train and support the SDF); under the existing limits put in place by the Obama administration, the formal troop cap for Syria is 503, but commanders have the authority to temporarily exceed that limit to meet military requirements. approximately 100 US Army Rangers in Strykers and armored Humvees deployed in and around Manbij, US officials said they are there to discourage Syrian, Russian, or Turkish troops from making any moves that could shift the focus away from an assault on IS militants, specifically preventing them inadvertently coming under fire. The US believes the pressure on ISIS in Raqqa is working, a US official said that intelligence indicates some ISIS leadership and operatives continue to try to leave the city. He added that there is also US intelligence that indicates the city is laced with trenches, tunnels, roadside bombs and houses and buildings wired to explode, which if correct indicates that the US has likely been able to gather intelligence from both overhead surveillance aircraft and people on the ground. However, the official also noted that “Raqqa will probably not be the final battle against ISIS” and added that the group still has some personnel dispersed in areas south and east of the city. According to the official the US estimates that ISIS could have roughly as many as 4,000 fighters in Raqqa. An official told the Guardian that in addition, the US is preparing to send hundreds of troops to Kuwait to be ready to fight Isis there if needed and the number would be fewer than 1,000. The Independent reported that Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, said the artillery unit and the Army Rangers would not have a frontline role.

On 16 March, a US airstrike hit a mosque in western Aleppo and killed more than 42 people, mostly civilians. The location was assessed by the US military as a meeting place for al-Qaeda and the US military claimed that the airstrike hit a target across the mosque and was not targeted at the mosque itself.

Stars and Stripes reported that on 28 March, an airman assigned to the 21st Space Wing was killed in a non-combat incident (possibly natural causes) in northern Syria.

 

April 2017

 

On 6 April, the US conducted a landing operation against ISIL, to the west of Deir ez-Zor. 2 Coalition helicopters airdropped soldiers in the area and targeted a car on route from Raqqa to Deir ez-Zor. During the landing, US forces killed 4 ISIL commanders and extracted a Jordanian spy, who had infiltrated ISIL and served as one of its leaders.

On 7 April, in response to chemical weapon attacks (most notably the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack) against Syrian civilians allegedly by the Syrian government, the US launched missile strikes on the airfield from which the chemical weapon attacks were launched.

This incident marks the first direct attack by the US on the Assad government.

The Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the attack as being based on false intelligence and against international law, suspended the Memorandum of Understanding on Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents that had been signed with the US, and called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

On 8 April, ISIS militants attacked a military base at Al Tanf, NBC news reported that ISIS attacked one of the bases entry gates with a VBIED, followed by 20-30 ISIS militants (some of whom were wearing suicide vests). U.S. Special Forces at the base and on patrol nearby along with other coalition members and Syrian opposition forces, with support from airstrikes repelled the attack. The Telegraph reported that during the battle ISIS militants also ambushed a convoy of reinforcements from an allied rebel group who were trying to relieve the base.

On CNN reported that on 11 April, a misdirected US airstrike near Tabqa during the Raqqa offensive killed 18 SDF soldiers.

 

Airstrikes on the Khorasan Group

 

One of the groups targeted by U.S. airstrikes was the Khorasan Group, an 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.

The strikes targeted Khorasan training camps, explosives and munitions production facilities, communications facilities, as well as 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.

The group is reportedly led by Muhsin al-Fadhli, a leader of al-Qaeda and a close confidant of Osama bin Laden.

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.

Later statements by government officials indicated that the threat of a plot may have been less severe than initially reported.

One official indicated that “there did not yet seem to be a concrete plan in the works”,[362] 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.

On 6 November, 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.

On 13 November 2014, the US launched a third set of airstrikes against Khorasan. On 19 November, the US carried out another airstrike on Khorasan near Hazm, which struck and destroyed a storage facility associated with the group. On 1 December, the US carried out another airstrike on Khorasan near Aleppo.

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On 24 March 2015, it was revealed that the US airstrikes on Khorasan had killed 17 militants from the group.

On 8 July 2015, a US airstrike near the town of Sarmada in Idlib, Syria, killed Muhsin al-Fadhli, the leader of Khorasan.

Syrian reaction to the airstrikes

Syrian military radar was “passive” during the first air strikes, with no attempt to counter US aircraft.

During the first night of airstrikes, the United States’ force deployed with HARM missiles as a precaution, as it was uncertain how Syria’s air-defense network would react.

In response to the errant airstrike of its forces in September 2016, the Syrian Armed Forces called it a “serious and blatant attack on Syria and its military”.

 

Civilian casualties

 

The website Airwars which “maintains an extensive database of all known allegations in which civilians and friendly forces have been reported killed by the Coalition since August 2014” reports between 503 and 700 civilians killed by Coalition airstrikes in Syria as of April 2016.

On 29 September 2014, several 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.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported ten airstrikes, also targeting various parts of the province of Idlib, killed at least one child and six other civilians. The group said at least 19 civilians had been killed in coalition airstrikes at that time.

The Pentagon reported it had no evidence of any civilian casualties from airstrikes targeting militants in Syria.

The United States has also acknowledged that its rules to avoid civilian casualties are looser in Syria than those for drone strikes elsewhere.

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 17 October 2014 and three civilians were killed in an air strike on 16 October 2014 in the north east province of al-Hassakah. According to their reports, most of the civilians killed were fuel tanker drivers.

According to Reuters, 50 civilians were killed in Syria by US-led airstrikes, since the start of the campaign in late September 2014.[375] On 28 December 2014, a U.S. airstrike in the northern Syrian town of Al-Bab killed more than 50 civilians.

On 21 May 2015, the United States admitted it “probably” killed two children in bombings near Harem on 4 and 5 November 2014. These are the first such admissions of the campaign, and followed a military investigation. A similar investigation regarding an event in Syria is underway, and two regarding events in Iraq.

Two adult civilians were also minorly injured in the Harem strikes. The deaths and injuries are attributed by the military investigation to unintentional secondary explosions, after the bombers hit their intended targets, linked to the Khorasan.

On 19 July 2016 a coalition led airstrike on the ISIL controlled villages of Tokhar and Hoshariyeh reportedly killed at least 56 civilians, including 11 children.

On 3 August 2016, dozens of civilians were killed after an airstrike in Qa’im, some sources claiming that 30 were killed.

At least 33 people were killed in a U.S.-led coalition airstrike on a school near Raqqa in March 2017.[381] On 16 March 2017, a U.S. airstrike in rebel-held Aleppo killed at least 46 people and wounded more than 100 after warplanes hit a mosque.

 

Results

 

According to CJTF-OIR, ISIL has lost 25% of the territory it possessed in Syria since the campaign began, mostly due to advances by YPG/SDF forces with heavy Coalition air support.[383] Overall the American-led air campaign against ISIL is estimated by the Pentagon to have struck 32,000 targets (including 164 tanks, 400 Humvees, and 2,638 pieces of oil infrastructure) and killed 50,000 militants, with approximately 1/3 of these losses taking place in Syria.

Air supply

On 20 October 2014 the United States began airdropping supplies to Syrian Kurdish forces, including the YPG, in Kobanî.

The Kurdish forces there have been engaged in battle with ISIL during the Siege of Kobanî. Prior to 20 October, 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.

Much of the reason for US having to airdrop supplies was due to the Turkish government’s refusal to allow supplies to pass through their border into Kobanî. The U.S. specifically airdropped weapons, ammunition, and medical supplies supplied by Iraqi Kurdistan specifically to supply the Kurdish forces in Syria.

On 21 October, 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 said it was 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 analyze its authenticity.

On 22 October, the Pentagon confirmed that one of the airdrops had been intercepted by ISIL but that it most likely would not give ISIL any real advantage in their operations.

Ground forces

During the beginning of the coalition interventions, leaders including U.S. President Obama, said coalition ground forces would not be used in the fight against ISIL either in Iraq or Syria unless they were local coalition forces.

While in Iraq thousands of coalition troops from the United States and other nations have been deployed in an advisory capacity, in Syria no ground troops from the coalition intervening in Syria were deployed in the beginning of the intervention.

 

While there were no coalition ground forces in Syria originally, the US government has said that it wants to spend $500 million to fund the training and arming of up to 5,000 moderate rebels to function as ground forces against ISIL. Under the original plan, the rebels would be trained in Saudi Arabia and other unnamed countries and then return to fight in Syria.

The ‘moderate’ opposition groups that are expected to be armed and trained by the US government include the Free Syrian Army, which is a network of hundreds of smaller rebel groups along with the Syria Revolutionaries Front.[392] In mid-September 2014, the US Congress approved the plan to arm and fund rebels in Syria.[393] In October 2014, the Turkish government agreed to help train and equip some moderate Syrian rebels in Turkey.[394] The Turkish government agreed to allow the training of at least 2,000 moderate rebels in Turkey by U.S. and Turkish special forces with the rebels being trained in groups of 400. According to Turkish officials, the rebels would be chosen by the country’s MIT intelligence service using its databases in order to select and screen an initial 2,000 rebels to undergo training.

As the Siege of Kobanî continued there were 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.[396] On 20 October 2014, the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced that the Turkish government would be allowing peshmerga from the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government to cross their border into Kobanî to support Kurdish fighters.[397] The change in policy came after the Turkish government had refused to allow Kurdish fighters and supplies to pass through the border to YPG units in Kobanî, as it viewed the YPG as an offshoot of the PKK.[398] On 28 October, Peshmerga from the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government departed Erbil to travel to Turkey and eventually to Kobanî.

A total of 152 soldiers were deployed starting with forty vehicles carrying weapons, artillery, and machine guns, along with 80 Peshmerga forces, who crossed the border into Turkey by land with the heavy weapons and then drove to the border near Kobanî.

The other 72 soldiers in the contingent flew to Turkey and rejoined the rest of the contingent on 29 October.

On 29 October 152 Kurdish Peshmerga from Iraq and 50 Free Syrian Army fighters crossed the border into Kobanî with heavy weapons, small arms, and ammunition.

In November 2015, The Obama administration began the deployment of U.S. special forces to Syria, on the mission of assisting rebel forces in their fight against ISIL, President Obama then ordered several dozen Special Operations troops into Rojava in northern Syria to assist local fighters battling the Islamic State, authorizing the first open-ended mission by American ground forces into the country.

In March 2016, it was revealed that British forces had helped in the building up of a mechanised battalion in southern Syria, consisting of tribal fighters to combat the Syrian Army.

On 17 March 2016, the day after the declaration of the Federation of Northern Syria, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter praised the Syrian Democratic Forces as having “proven to be excellent partners of ours on the ground in fighting ISIL. We are grateful for that, and we intend to continue to do that, recognizing the complexities of their regional role.”[402]

During the SDF’s May 2016 offensive against ISIL in Northern Raqqa, U.S. Special Forces were widely reported and photographed to be present, and to wear badges of YPG and YPJ on their uniforms.

On 21 May 2016, Joseph Votel, commanding general of U.S. Central Command, completed a secret several-hour-long trip to northern Syria to visit several locations where there were U.S. special operations forces and meet with local forces the U.S. was helping train to fight ISIL. The visit came as the first of 250 additional U.S. special operations forces were beginning to arrive in Syria to work with local forces. The commander overseeing the war in Syria, at the end of a long Saturday spent touring SDF bases, said “We do, absolutely, have to go with what we’ve got”.

In September 2016, the U.S. spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) confirmed that the SDF, including the YPG, is also part of the “vetted forces” in the train and equip program and will be supplied with weapons. The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, condemned this and claimed that the SDF are “endangering our future”.

In October 2016, U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the commander of the international coalition against ISIL, said that the SDF would lead the impending assault on Raqqa, ISIL’s stronghold and capital, and that SDF commanders would plan the operation with advice from American and coalition troops.

From November, more than 300 U.S. Special Operations Forces were embedded to train and advise SDF fighters in the Raqqa offensive.

In March 2017, the Donald Trump Administration deployed an additional 400 US Marines in Syria to expand the fight against ISIS in the Raqqa offensive which they can provide artillery support for U.S.-backed local forces who are preparing an assault Raqqa in the battle to liberate the city from IS militants. The deployment marks a new escalation in the U.S. war in Syria, and puts more conventional U.S. troops in the battle, that until now had primarily used Special Operations units. The force is part of the 11th MEU, 400 US Marines from the Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marines will crew an artillery battery of M-777 Howitzers; whilst additional infantrymen from the unit will provide security, while resupplies will be handled by part of the expeditionary force’s combat logistics element.

Naming of Operation Inherent Resolve

Unlike previous U.S. combat operations, no name had been given to the American intervention in Syria and Iraq until it was announced in mid-October that the operational name would be Inherent Resolve.

The decision to keep the conflict nameless drew considerable media criticism.

 

Turkish involvement

 

Turkey, a NATO member, has been involved in the Syrian Civil War since the beginning of hostilities. Turkey has trained and armed some members of the Free Syrian Army, and has been involved in certain spillover incidents, however so far Turkey has not been involved in direct combat. On 2 October 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.

Turkey has also stationed troops and tanks on its southern border near the Syrian border city of Kobanî.

The Turkish government demanded several things to go along with them intervening against ISIL, including a buffer zone in Northern Syria, a no-fly zone over certain parts of northern Syria, ground troops from other countries, and the training of moderate opposition forces to fight both ISIL and al-Assad.

Turkey also holds sovereignty over the Tomb of Suleyman Shah 35 km inside Syria, where it maintains a small garrison of Special forces that is surrounded by ISIL-controlled territory.

On 22 February 2015, the Turkish Army mounted a rescue operation across the border to evacuate its soldiers from the Tomb of Suleyman Shah, an exclave of Turkey south of Kobanî. The Turkish convoy reportedly transited through Kurdish-held Kobanî en route to the tomb. One Turkish soldier was killed in what Ankara described as an accident. The success of the operation was announced 22 February by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

 

Reactions

 

Foreign reactions

 

  • Australia – Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister of Australia, praised the intervention, saying that an international effort was needed in order to combat the ISIL threat.[159] Despite Abbott’s support for the intervention, the Australian Government said it is not likely to contribute forces to operations in Syria.[419]
  • Canada – Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, said in October 2014 Canada would strike ISIL targets in Syria if the Assad government gave approval.[420] New Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called President Obama almost immediately after coming into office to inform him that Canada will be ceasing air operations in coordination with Americans. Trudeau did not give a time frame.
  • Czech Republic – Lubomír Zaorálek, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic supported the intervention against the Islamic State and said that it’s important to keep supporting the ground forces in the battle against ISIS and the Czech Republic will keep providing military support to the Iraqi army and to the Kurdish Peshmerga. He also noted that air strikes won’t defeat Islamic State. The Czech government said that ISIS is enemy not only for safety in the Middle East, but also for security and stability in the Czech Republic and Europe.
  • Ecuador – The Ecuadorian government opposed the airstrikes in Syria without the consent of the Syrian government.
  • 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.
  • Germany – German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier questioned whether President Obama’s plan was adequate in order to combat ISIL and said Germany had not been asked to participate in airstrikes nor would it participate if asked.
  • 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.
  • Iran’s deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian was reported in Iranian media as saying that 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 in Syria.
  • Israel – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel fully supported the U.S. government’s calls for united action against ISIL.
  • Japan – A spokesperson for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Japanese government would continue to closely coordinate with the United States and other countries, along with offering support and cooperation in their strikes against ISIL.
  • Netherlands – Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, showed understanding for the intervention against ISIL in Syria and said that his government was exploring options to contribute in the fight against ISIL.
  • 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”.[156] On 14 October, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov questioned the motives of the intervention, saying “Maybe their stated goal is not entirely sincere? Maybe it is regime change?” He also questioned the effectiveness of the year long campaign “With, as far as I know, 25,000 sorties they [US-led air campaign] could have smashed the entire [country of] Syria into smithereens,” continuing to remark that “positive results ‘on the ground’ are not visible”. He also criticized the continued supply of arms to rebels, saying “I want to be honest, we barely have any doubt that at least a considerable part of these weapons will fall into the terrorists’ hands.” He continued to call for the countries involved to join a coalition made up of Russian, Syrian, Iranian, Iraqi, Jordanian and Hezbollah forces against what Russia claims is solely ISIL and al Qaeda, but the US has asserted is primarily non-jihadist opposition forces.

Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Russian President Vladimir Putin, described the US air strikes on the Shayrat airbase as “an act of aggression against a sovereign state delivered in violation of international law under a far-fetched pretext…. a serious blow to Russian-US relations, which are already in a poor state”.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov referred to the Sharyat attack as “an act of aggression under a completely invented pretext”. He compared events in April 2017 to “the situation of 2003, when the USA, the UK and several of their allies invaded Iraq without the UN Security Council’s approval – a grave violation of international law – but at that point they at least tried to show some material evidence.”

  • Turkey – The Davutoglu Government called on the Grand National Assembly of Turkey to approve measures that would grant extensive authority to the President to launch military operations in both Syria and Iraq, including the authority to send 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.
  • United Kingdom – A spokesperson for British Prime Minister David Cameron said the UK would not rule out airstrikes in Syria against ISIL. On 26 September 2014 Parliament voted 524 to 43 to approve action inside Iraq.[435] While visiting Iraqi Kurdistan in mid October, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he saw no immediate demand from U.S. and Arab militaries for Britain to extend its airstrikes to Syria.[436] British Defense Minister Michael Fallon said on 21 October that British Reaper drones and Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft would be starting intelligence-gathering missions in Syria “very shortly.”
  • 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”.
  • Venezuela – At the 69th General Assembly of the United Nations, President Nicolas Maduro said “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”.

Syrian reactions

  • Syria – A week before the first airstrikes, Ali Haidar, the 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”.[156] However, despite Haidar’s original statement, after the coalition campaign began, the Syrian government struck a more conciliatory tone with Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem suggesting the airstrikes were an indication that Syria and the anti-ISIL coalition were on the same side.[440]
  • Syrian opposition – Hadi Bahra, the leader of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces called for airstrikes against ISIL before the intervention began. The coalition is recognized by 20 countries, the European Union, and the Arab league as the legitimate representative of Syria in opposition to the Assad government. Bahra said strikes were needed to weaken ISIL, a faction in the inter-rebel conflict during the Syrian Civil War, so that the Free Syrian Army and other moderate opposition forces could oppose Assad more effectively.[441] Despite Bahra’s support, many Syrian rebel groups have criticized 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.[373] Meanwhile, jihadist groups within the opposition have portrayed the coalition as an anti-Sunni stooge of the Syrian regime, while many Sunnis in Syria are angered that only extremist Sunnis are being targeted while mostly Shiite Assad forces aren’t targeted.[443] Some rebels defected to extremist groups as a result of the U.S. decision to strike jihadist groups other than ISIL, such as the al-Nusra Front.

 

 

During the Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011, the United States first supplied the rebels of the Free Syrian Army with non-lethal aid (including food rations and pickup trucks), but quickly began providing training, cash, and intelligence to selected Syrian rebel commanders.

The United States began surveillance missions on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) positions in Syria in September 2014. On 10 September, President of the United States Barack Obama gave a speech indicating his intent to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, 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.”

On 22 September 2014, the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates began to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant inside Syria, as well as the Khorasan group in the Idlib Governorate to the west of Aleppo and the al-Nusra Front around Raqqa, as part of the military intervention against ISIL.

On 2 November 2014, in response to the intervention, representatives from Ahrar ash-Sham, the al-Nusra Front, the Khorasan Group, the Islamic State, and Jund al-Aqsa attended a meeting which sought to unite several hard-line groups against the US-led coalition and other moderate Syrian rebel groups.[115] On 6 November, a US airstrike struck Ahrar ash-Sham at its headquarters in Idlib.

 

By 14 November 2014, it was revealed that the negotiations between al-Nusra, Jund al-Aqsa, ISIL and Ahrar ash-Sham had failed.

 

Background

 

Following the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, protests in Syria against the Assad administration were violently suppressed and a civil war began.

By 2012 there were several armed opposition groups operating in the country, including the Free Syrian Army, formed in July 2011 by by officers who defected from the Syrian Armed Forces. In 2012, 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 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.

 

 

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