The United States, joined by five Arab allies, launched an intense campaign of airstrikes, bombings and cruise-missile attacks against the Islamic State and another militant group in Syria Monday night – marking the first U.S. military intervention in Syria since the start of that country’s civil war in 2011.
U.S. Central Command (Centcom) said in a statement released early Tuesday that 14 Islamic State targets were hit, including the group’s fighters, training camps, headquarters and command-and-control facilities, and armed vehicles. The operation involved a combination of fighter jets, bombers, Predator drones and Tomahawk missiles launched from the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.
“We believe we hit, largely, everything we were aiming at,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
The strikes “destroyed or damaged” multiple targets, according to the U.S. military, which reported “all aircraft safely exited the strike areas.”
The mission was not limited to hitting Islamic State positions. Centcom said that U.S. aircraft also struck eight targets associated with another terrorist group called the Khorasan Group, made of up Al Qaeda veterans. Those strikes, near the northwestern Syrian city of Aleppo, targeted training camps, a munitions production facility, a communication building and command-and-control facilities.
Centcom said the Khorasan Group was involved in “imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests.”
President Obama, who did not publicly address the strikes on Monday, plans to speak at the White House Tuesday morning, we have learned.
The military strikes come less than two weeks after Obama, on Sept. 10, authorized U.S. airstrikes inside Syria as part of a broad campaign to root out the militants. The strikes ostensibly put the United States, for now, on the same side as Bashar Assad, the Syrian strongman whose ouster Obama once sought — though the Assad regime was not involved in Monday’s strikes.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry told the Associated Press that the U.S. informed Syria’s envoy to the U.N. that “strikes will be launched against the terrorist Daesh group in Raqqa.” The statement used an Arabic name to refer to the Islamic State group, which is more commonly known as ISIS or ISIL.
U.S. officials said that the airstrikes began around 8:30 p.m. ET, and were conducted by the U.S., Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. The first wave of strikes finished about 90 minutes later, though the operation was expected to have lasted several hours. Kirby said the military made the decision to strike early Monday.
The operation involved 47 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles launched from the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea. Officials told Fox News that B-1 bombers, F-16 and F-18 fighters, and Predator drones were also used. The F-18s flew missions off the USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf.
Obama, in announcing plans for an expanded campaign against ISIS earlier this month, said: “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.”