Both the White House and the Pentagon yesterday acknowledged such a secret operation in Syria to rescue American citizens taken hostage by the Islamic State, also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS or ISIL. The disclosure came a day after the ISIS released a disturbing video showing one of its members beheading Foley, who was abducted abducted in Syria in November 2012.
The Obama administration did not confirm whether Foley was one among hostages, but multiple media reports said that he was one among them. According to senior Obama administration officials, special forces were dropped in a remote area of Syria where intelligence officials suspected hostages were being held.
"The attempt, involving several dozen US commandos, one of whom was injured in a fierce firefight with the militants, was the first known US ground operation in Syria since the countrys descent into civil war," The Washington Post said. It came after at least six European hostages freed by the militants last spring had been debriefed by US intelligence, the daily said.
"This operation involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within ISIL. Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location," Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said.
President Obama had authorized the operation to attempt the rescue of Americans who were kidnapped by the ISIL and held in Syria, said Lisa Monaco, Assistant to President for Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism. Obama authorised action at this time because it was the national security team's assessment that these hostages were in danger with each passing day in ISIL custody, she said.
Monaco said the US Government had what it believed was sufficient intelligence, and when the opportunity presented itself, the President authorized the Department of Defense to move aggressively to rescue the hostages. "Unfortunately, that mission was ultimately not successful because the hostages were not present," she also said, adding that "given the need to protect our military's operational capabilities, we will not be able to reveal the details of this operation."
Kirby said the US was committed to the safety of its citizens, particularly those suffering in captivity.