Islamic State Targets Hit In Syria, Pentagon Says

Sep 23, 2014
Originally published on September 23, 2014 1:20 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The U.S. has widened its campaign against the jihadist militant group ISIS. Aircraft and missiles struck targets overnight in Iraq and for the first time in Syria. And the U.S. says without offering any details that no fewer than five Arab nation allies participated in some way. NPR's Pentagon Correspondent Tom Bowman joins us now. Hey there, Tom.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Audie.

CORNISH: So, no details really about the involvement of the Arab allies. But what do we know about what has happened?

BOWMAN: Well, the Pentagon says there were 14 strikes against Islamic State targets around Raqqa. They hit ISIL fighters, training compounds, headquarters, command-and-control facilities, trucks and armored vehicles. They used Tomahawk missiles launched from sea; each of these has a thousand pound warhead. They were launched from the USS Arleigh Burke and the USS Philippine Sea in the Red Sea in the Northern Arabian golf - also Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighters.

Now also Arab states were involved, they said, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - UAE, they said they participated in or supported the airstrikes. But we're not sure if their warplanes actually hit targets or if they provided surveillance planes, refueling planes or just airfields. So we don't know that at this point.

CORNISH: Now the Pentagon also talked about airstrikes in the west of Syria that the U.S. did on its own. What more can you tell us about that?

BOWMAN: That's right, Audie. The U.S. said it hit eight targets west of the city of Aleppo, they include training camps, explosive ammunitions, production facilities, a building, command-and-control facilities. Now these targets were not against the Islamic State, but against a collection of militant fighters called the Khorasan group. And the Pentagon's says they're al-Qaida veterans plotting attacks against the United States in Western interests. Now this is new because U.S. officials have long said the Islamic State does not present an immediate threat to the United States, more to the region. And that over time the Islamic State could hit the United States. So this Khorasan group appears to be more of a threat in the short term. Now these strikes could help the martyr rebels as well - The Free Syrian Army, which is supported by the United States. Now, they're also fighting around Aleppo. And the city's basically split into thirds. You have this Khorasan group, you have the Syrian government and you also have these moderate rebels. So over time this could actually help the moderate Syrian rebels take that area, which is now held by militant groups.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, Tom, what's been the response from ISIS?

BOWMAN: Well, an Islamic State fighter said on Tuesday that the group will respond to U.S.-led airstrikes inside Syria. And the group blamed Saudi Arabia for allowing this to happen. Of course the Saudi's were told took part in these airstrikes, offered some sort of support, we don't know exactly what. And also, as we know, Saudi Arabia will provide training for rebels on their turf being led by the United States.

CORNISH: That's NPR Pentagon Correspondent Tom Bowman. Tom, thanks so much for your reporting.

BOWMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.