The United States and Arab coalition partners launched a series of early Tuesday morning airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Raqqa, Syria, a city in the north-central area of the war-torn country that is a stronghold of Islamic State militants.
Some of the airstrikes also hit targeted areas outside of Raqqa with the first round of missile attacks coming from a navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea.
The list of Arab coalition partners involved in Tuesday’s airstrikes in Syria includes the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar playing a cooperative role.
According to U.S. Department of Defense Press Secretary John Kirby, the airstrikes were undertaken through a mixture of fighter and bomber aircraft and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.
“Given that these operations are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide additional details at this time,” Kirby said.
The airstrikes were authorized by President Obama through a comprehensive strategy to degrade and destroy Islamic State targets across the region, using an existing authorization to combat al Qaeda that doesn’t require a Congressional vote.
In recent days, the Pentagon has signaled a greater willingness to extend U.S. military airstrikes to Islamic State targets inside Syria which is locked in a 3 year old civil war with 6 million displaced Syrians and over 190,000 war victims.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told the House Armed Services Committee just last week that he and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey approved plans to strike ISIS targets in Syria.
Over the week-end, more than 130,000 Syrian Kurds crossed the border into Turkey after Islamic State militants seized dozens of villages close to the border, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Saturday.
Secretary of State John Kerry traveled across the Middle East earlier this month to organize a coalition of willing Arab nations to support efforts to confront Islamic State militants who removed the border dividing northeast Syria and northwest Iraq, attempted to eliminate religious minorities, and seek to impose an Islamic caliphate that stretches from Iran to the Mediterranean Sea.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 16th that he would recommend deploying American ground troops to Iraq and Syria if U.S. airstrikes proved to be unsuccessful.
Dempsey said that 12,ooo military troops could be needed to achieve military success on the Syrian side of the border where most of the estimated 32,000 Islamic State militants are believed to be scattered across the region.
The Obama administration backed away from Gen. Dempsey’s comments and insisted that no U.S. ground troops will be sent into combat in Iraq and Syria.
During an interview yesterday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Secretary of State Kerry reiterated that sentiment, insisting other nations in the region will fight for itself without the need for U.S. ground forces.
“Every country in the region is deeply threatened by this, and that includes Iran, includes Lebanon, includes all of the neighborhood. And it is absolutely fair and appropriate for the world to expect that that region will fight for itself, ” Kerry said.
U.S. Airstrikes In Iraq
The U.S. Central Command released a news release yesterday that confirmed U.S. military aircraft forces have continued military airstrikes against Islamic State targets in neighboring Iraq.
“U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Iraq today, using a mix of attack, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct four airstrikes near the city of Kirkuk.”
The new release states that U.S. airstrikes “destroyed two ISIL vehicles, an ISIL tank, and damaged an ISIL Humvee, all west-southwest of Kirkuk.”
Thus far the U.S. Central Command has conducted a total of 190 airstrikes across Iraq.