On Tuesday, Pentagon officials addressed the latest development in the United States’ war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). After launching 190 airstrikes at Islamic State targets in Iraq over the last month, the U.S. launched 14 airstrikes at targets in Syria on Monday night, with the help of five Arab allies.
The Pentagon’s Press Secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby, reported that the recent strikes in Syria, which were targeted at Islamic State compounds, manufacturing workshops, and training camps, were “very successful.”
“Last night’s strikes are the beginning of a credible and sustainable persistent campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL,” said the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Lieutenant General, Bill Mayville, using the acronym for the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant, to refer to the militants.
Regarding the length of the campaign against the Islamic State, Mayville said, “I would think of it in terms of years.”
Mayville said that the U.S. has already seen evidence of the Islamic State’s ability to adapt to airstrikes, “as a result of the air campaign thus far in Iraq.” He added that the militants have attempted to fade into urban areas where strikes could become less effective, “without ground troops.”
“They are a learning organization, and they will adapt to what we’ve done,” said Mayville, who went on to say that the Islamic State militants will “seek to address their shortfalls and gaps against our air campaign in the coming weeks.”
While acknowledging that ground troops were preferred, due to the closed urban areas where targets were located, and the concerns of “collateral damage,” Mayville insisted, “We have not put, and we will not put ground forces into Syria.”
“There’s obviously a desire to put something on the ground,” said Mayville. “We’ve been able to provide air support without putting forces forward, and I think we will continue to look at how we can do that as we move forward.”
Monday’s attack in Syria consisted of three waves, which hit both Islamic State and Khorasan targets, according to The Hill.
President Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor, Ben Rhodes, described the Khorasan group as “a group of extremists that is comprised of a number of individuals,” who the United States has been tracking for a long time.
“We believe that that attack plotting was imminent and that they had plans to conduct attacks external to Syria,” said Rhodes, who claimed that Khorasan includes former al-Qaeda operatives.
NBC News reported that, although it has only been a week since the Khorasan group received international recognition, “they’ve been billed as potentially an even bigger threat to the U.S. than ISIS.”
“Khorasan is less of a threat to the region and more of a threat to the U.S. homeland than ISIS,” claimed the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Michael Leiter.
“Unlike ISIS, the Khorasan group’s focus is not on overthrowing the Assad regime,” said Leiter. “These are core al Qaeda operatives who are taking advantage of the Syrian conflict to advance attacks against Western interests.”
“You are seeing the beginnings of a sustained campaign, and strikes like this in the future can be expected,” Mayville said.