News / Middle East

US Acknowledges Unsuccessful Syria Rescue Attempt

President Barack Obama arrives to speak in Edgartown, Mass., Aug. 20, 2014, about the killing of American journalist James Foley by militants with the Islamic State extremist group.
President Barack Obama arrives to speak in Edgartown, Mass., Aug. 20, 2014, about the killing of American journalist James Foley by militants with the Islamic State extremist group.
Victor Beattie

The United States acknowledged Wednesday it launched an unsuccessful military rescue operation earlier this year to free American hostages held by Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria. The announcement came the same day President Barack Obama condemned the execution of an American journalist and called for regional action to extract the IS extremist "cancer" before it spreads.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said the United States attempted to rescue a number of American hostages held by “a particular captor network” within IS in Syria. He said the air and ground operation was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location. 

Presidential assistant on counterterrorism Lisa Monaco said the operation, which took place earlier this summer, was authorized by Obama because of the assessment that the hostages were in increasing danger with each passing day.

Pentagon acknowledgement

Rick Brennan, senior RAND Corporation political scientist and career U.S. Army officer, said gaining actionable intelligence for such an operation is always a challenge, but he is surprised the Pentagon acknowledged the unsuccessful mission publicly.

"Trying to get current intelligence for this type of operation is extremely difficult.  We had so many attempts that were aborted, if you will, with bin Laden. Very rarely do you hear about the Department of Defense discussing these types of capabilities. So, yeah, it is odd that the Pentagon and the White House have come out and acknowledged that we conducted this kind of raid, and that it failed," Brennan said.

FILE - This undated file still image from video released April 7, 2011, by GlobalPost, shows James Foley of Rochester, N.H., a freelance contributor for GlobalPost, in Benghazi, Libya.FILE - This undated file still image from video released April 7, 2011, by GlobalPost, shows James Foley of Rochester, N.H., a freelance contributor for GlobalPost, in Benghazi, Libya.
x
FILE - This undated file still image from video released April 7, 2011, by GlobalPost, shows James Foley of Rochester, N.H., a freelance contributor for GlobalPost, in Benghazi, Libya.
FILE - This undated file still image from video released April 7, 2011, by GlobalPost, shows James Foley of Rochester, N.H., a freelance contributor for GlobalPost, in Benghazi, Libya.

The Pentagon and White House statements were issued the same day Obama acknowledged the beheading of American freelance journalist James Foley seen in a gruesome video made public Tuesday. He said the world is appalled by the brutal murder and denounced the group’s acts of murder, abductions, torture, rape and slavery.

"From governments and peoples across the Middle East, there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer, so that it does not spread. There has to be a clear rejection of these kinds of nihilistic ideologies," Obama said.

The president said there is no place for IS militants in the 21st century.

IS threat

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf Wednesday said Washington has spoken with a number of regional partners who understand how serious a threat IS poses.

"Countries in the region are very, very concerned about this. We’ve worked with them to cut off financing [of IS], working to cut off the flow of foreign fighters, so we can start to deprive ISIL of the oxygen that it’s had and has really allowed it to flourish," said Harf.

Interpol says the beheading of a U.S. journalist by Islamic State militants shows the need for a coordinated global effort to combat the threat posed by foreign fighters traveling to conflict zones in the Middle East.

The group said Thursday the killing of James Foley has appalled the world and illustrates the "depravity" of the Islamic State fighters operating in Iraq and Syria.

But terrorism expert Greg Barton, who heads the Center for Islam and Modern World at Australia’s Monash University, said the terrorist threat continues to grow in the region and IS continues to add fighters to its ranks.

"We used to think that had maybe 6,000 militants in Iraq and a similar number in Syria. We’re now seeing multiples of that number. We do know that many more foreign fighters have come in over the last few weeks and we know that they’re recruiting locally as well, and it looks as if they have some core strength in the several tens of thousands," said Barton.

Provocation

Barton said the brutal execution of Foley is designed to provoke an angry response from the West, and that may be a way for the Sunni extremist group to tell would-be donors and recruits that the world is at war with Islam. So far, he added, the Western response has been restrained.

Despite militant threats to kill another captive American journalist, Steven Sotloff, over U.S. aerial attacks on IS targets in Iraq, those air strikes continued Wednesday with another 14 in the vicinity of the recently recaptured Mosul Dam.  Brennan said the United States has little choice but to continue its aerial campaign in support of Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish operations against IS.

"If you fail to take action, because of a terrorist threat, then it binds your hands to do the kinds of things that protect U.S. interests. I think that it’s absolutely impossible for the president to try to back down and not do what he thinks is right because of the threat of an American being killed," said Brennan.

Writing Wednesday in Commentary magazine, Council on Foreign Relations national security expert Max Boot said what is needed now is a coherent military strategy to annihilate IS. He said that would include an enhanced air campaign coupled with thousands of U.S. advisors and special operations troops working with moderate forces in Syria and Iraq to root out IS militants from their newly-conquered territory.

You May Like

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Reporting from Somali capital for past decade, Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal has been working at one of Mogadishu's leading radio stations covering parliament More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Chris
August 21, 2014 10:39 AM
The US Government is to be commended and praised for its initiative with regard to its rescue operation and it is indeed unfortunate they were not successful. However as barbaric as this execution was, Russia needs to be held accountable on the recent aircraft downing, by rogue elements with a missile.To date President Putin has failed to deal with those responsible.and it is an atrocity that cannot merely be allowed to escape justice, just like James Foley.

by: Paul J. from: Louisiana, USA
August 21, 2014 10:23 AM
There is no subsitute for success. Better to have let the media release the fact and just make a confirmation statement.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs