USA Making Airdrops to supply the Islamic State (ISIS) Terrorists

Has the US and Its Allies Used Covert Airdrops, Drones to Supply the Islamic State?

 

697678586587Is there a way the United States or one of the Islamic State’s admitted state sponsors could be airdropping supplies without triggering suspicion? How has modern airdrop technology and techniques evolved that might make this possible?

When asking these questions, they must first be understood in the context that:

(A.) According to Wikileaks, within the e-mails of former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton it was acknowledged that the governments of two of America’s closest allies in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were providing material support to the Islamic State (IS);

(B.) That according to the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) (PDF), the US and its allies sought to use a “Salafist principality” in eastern Syria as a strategic asset against the Syrian government, precisely where the Islamic (Salafist) State (principality) eventually manifested itself and;

(C.) That the fighting capacity of the Islamic State is on such a large and sustained level, it can only be the result of immense and continuous state sponsorship, including a constant torrent of supplies by either ground or air (or both).

Within this context, we can already partially answer these questions with confirmed statements made by another of America’s closest allies in the region, and a long-time NATO member, Turkey.

It was a May 2016 Washington Times article titled, “Turkey offers joint ops with U.S. forces in Syria, wants Kurds cut out,” that quoted none other than the Turkish Foreign Minister himself admitting (emphasis added):

Joint operations between Washington and Ankara in Manbji, a well-known waypoint for Islamic State fighters, weapons and equipment coming from Turkey bound for Raqqa,would effectively open “a second front” in the ongoing fight to drive the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, from Syria’s borders, [Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu] said.

And clearly, by simply looking at maps of the Syrian conflict over the past 5 years, the supply corridors used by the Islamic State, via Turkey, to resupply its region-wide warfare were significant until Kurdish fighters reduced them to one, now the epicenter of a questionable Turkish military incursion into northern Syria.

With the Islamic State’s ground routes hindered, is there another way the US or at the very least, admittedly its Islamic State-sponsoring allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar could deliver food, ammunition, weapons and even small vehicles to the militant group, still held up in Syria’s eastern city of Al Raqqa?

The answer is yes.

Modern American Airdrop Capabilities 

A system developed years ago for the United States military called Joint Precision Airdrop System (JPADS) allows cargo aircraft to release airdrops of supplies from as high as 25,000 feet and as far from a drop zone as 25-30 kilometers. A Global Positioning System (GPS) and an airborne guidance unit automate the drop’s trajectory to land within 100 meters of a predetermined drop zone. The system also makes it possible to release several drops at once and have them directed toward different drop zones.

The US military has already received this system and it has been in use for years. At least one Persian Gulf state has taken delivery of the system as well, the United Arab Emirates.

Defense Industry Daily would report that in 2013, the UAE would order the system for use with its C-130H and C-17 aircraft. The same report would note that the system is used by several other NATO allies.

The US has admittedly used this system to drop supplies to both Kurdish fighters and anti-government militants in Syria, including at least one instance where supply pallets ended up “accidentally” with the Islamic State.

In addition to airdrops made by large, manned cargo aircraft, the US has admittedly used drones to drop supplies across the region, the Guardian would admit.

The US Already Makes Airdrops to the Islamic State

The Washington Post in a 2014 article titled, “U.S. accidentally delivered weapons to the Islamic State by airdrop, militants say,” claims:

The Islamic State has released a new video in which it brags that it recovered weapons and supplies that the U.S. military intended to deliver to Kurdish fighters, who are locked in a fight with the militants over control of the Syrian border town of Kobane. 

The Washington Post also admits (emphasis added):

The incident highlights the difficulty in making sure all airdrops are accurate, even with GPS-guided parachutes that the Air Force commonly uses. Airdrops of food and water to religious minorities trapped on mountain cliffs in northern Iraq in August hit the mark about 80 percent of the time, Pentagon officials said at the time.

This (and similar incidents) may represent an accident in which JPADS performed poorly. Or it could represent an intentional airdrop meant to resupply Islamic State terrorists with the Washington Post article attempting to explain away how GPS-guided airdrops could “accidentally” end up in enemy territory.

Reports from Qatari-based Al Jazeera claim the US has also dropped weapons to militants other than Kurdish fighters. In an article titled, “US drops weapons to rebels battling ISIL in Syria,” Al Jazeera claims:

The US has reportedly dropped weapons to rebel fighters in Syria as the UN Security Council considers dropping food and medicine by air to civilians.

It also claims that:

The weapons supplies were airdropped to rebels in Marea, a town in the northern province of Aleppo, on Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. 

“Coalition airplanes dropped … ammunitions, light weapons and anti-tank weapons to rebels in Marea,” Rami Abdel Rahman, the SOHR head, said.

The Guardian would also admit to the US carrying out similar airdrops in Syria.

Knowingly Dropping Supplies into Terrorist-Held Territory 

And more recently, there has been a push to drop supplies into eastern Aleppo in an attempt to prolong the fighting and prevent the complete collapse of a militant presence there, specifically using JPADS, according to the Guardian.

Another Guardian article reveals that US drones have previously been used to make airdrops in the region and might be used again to create an “air bridge” to militant-held areas of Syria.

However, even most US and European sources have admitted to a heavy presence of Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise in the city, Jabhat Al Nusra, a designated foreign terrorist organization even according to the US State Department.

If the US would seriously consider airdropping supplies to Al Qaeda to prolong fighting and to continue confounding Syrian forces, why wouldn’t they also airdrop supplies to the Islamic State to do the same?

With the ability to drop supplies from as high as 25,000 feet and from as far away as 25-30 kilometers (and possibly even further as was envisioned by future designs), the US or its allies could appear to be resupplying what it calls “moderate rebels” on one part of the battlefield, while diverting a percentage of its drops into Al Qaeda or Islamic State territory. Drones could also be utilized to create “air bridges” harder to detect than those created using larger cargo aircraft.

With the Islamic State’s fighting capacity still potent both in Iraq and Syria, and with Kurdish fighters sealing off ground routes along the Syrian border, unless Turkey within its “buffer zone” is passing weapons onward to the Islamic State, what other means could this terrorist organization be using to resupply its regional war effort, if not by air?

For those seriously committed to defeating the Islamic State and other armed groups operating within Syrian territory, answering this question will bring peace and security one step closer.

Ulson Gunnar, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine

FULL LIST OF FAKE NEWS OUTLETS

THE ULTIMATE “FAKE NEWS” LIST

FULL LIST OF FAKE NEWS OUTLETS

– The New York Times
– The Washington Post
– CNN
– NBC News
– MSNBC
– CBS News
– ABC News
– Salon.com
– The Huffington Post
– Rolling Stone
– BBC News
– Sky News
– Financial Times
– Politico
– New York Daily News
– L.A. Times
– USA Today
– US News & World Report
– CBC
– Gawker
– Newsweek
– Time
– Business Insider
– Daily Beast
– VICE
– Yahoo News
– Daily Kos
– Young Turks
– Slate
– NPR
– PBS
– Raw Story
– New Yorker
– Buzzfeed
– MoveOn
– Think Progress
– Media Matters
– Wonkette
– Center for American Progress
– Little Green Footballs
– The Economist

Below is a list of fake news reporters who colluded with the Clinton campaign to promote fake news.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are many reporters within these organizations who do not peddle fake news and have spoken out against the mainstream media’s effort to brand dissenting opinion as “fake news”.

For example, Matt Taibbi (no fan of Infowars), has called the Washington Post’s fake news blacklist “disgusting” and “shameful”.

Glenn Greenwald, who has worked with several of the organizations on this list in the past, also completely eviscerated the credibility of the “fake news list” being used by the Washington Post.

The entire “fake news” narrative being pushed by the mainstream media has nothing whatsoever to do with concerns over people being misled.

If that were the case, the mainstream media itself would stop habitually lying to the American people and its trustworthiness wouldn’t be in the toilet.

The whole “fake news” narrative is clearly part of a dirty tricks campaign to pressure governments, Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other tech giants to censor information that is inconvenient to the establishment, for which the mainstream media serves as a mouthpiece.

We are competing with the mainstream media and they’re not happy about dissident voices challenging their monopoly on reality. That’s why they’re forced to resort to underhanded and deceptive means through which to silence their ideological opposition.

By circulating this article and this fake news list, we are not calling for these outlets to be censored, we are simply drawing attention to the fact that the very same entities who cry “fake news” are the primary sources for the most damaging, harmful and woefully inaccurate fake news stories in the history of modern journalism.

 

USA to hand out arms like Christmas cookies to preserve terrorist assets in Syria

‘US to hand out arms like Christmas cookies to preserve terrorist assets in Syria’

President Obama’s waiver of restrictions on supplying arms to militant groups in Syria looks like a desperate attempt to compensate for the loss of Aleppo and preserve terrorist assets elsewhere, former US diplomat Jim Jatras told RT.

RT: How might Obama’s waiving of current restrictions on assistance to forces in Syria affect the situation there?

Jim Jatras: I don’t see how it can make things better. You would think especially with Aleppo about to be recaptured by the Syrian Army, the United States, the Obama administration, would be looking for some way to wind this down, to talk to the Russians about a common front against terrorist groups. Instead it looks like President Obama is even loosening the standards for putting weapons into the hands of people that we don’t even pretend are “moderates,” like that fiasco with four or five fighters that they were able to produce some months back.

Now, we’re talking about throwing weapons out there like Christmas cookies to people that we know are terrorists. But we’re going to pretend, that they are going to be directed against Daesh, against ISIS, ignoring the fact that virtually all of these groups share the same Salafist ideology, have the same goals, the same terrorist methodology. So none of them have problems with transferring their weapons to somebody else. But the fact that the very people we give the weapons to are probably terrorists that have no real distinction between themselves and Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

RT: Why has this decision been made? What’s the aim?

JJ: I think even specialists looking at this are somewhat puzzled. Especially, remember, President Obama is doing this publicly. What, we haven’t been giving weapons to various terrorist groups in Syria for the last years? Now he’s signing an order that, at least on its face, broadens the purview of the groups to which those weapons will be provided. How does that contribute to anything that makes any sense?

The only thing I can think of is that there’s something they are trying to salvage, in terms of maybe some kind of terrorist-controlled zone in Northern Syria along the Turkish border, something in Eastern Syria, something to compensate for the loss of Aleppo. And that perhaps we are being pressured or even threatened by our so-called allies, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, that have been supporting these groups, including, by the way, Daesh itself, over the past few years.

READ MORE: Weapons can end up with terrorists now US military aid restrictions to Syria lifted – Kremlin

RT: A draft resolution demanding an immediate end to hostilities in Syria has been overwhelmingly voted for at the UN General Assembly. Will it apply to the US and Turkey too? Will they follow it?

JJ: No, of course not. And let’s remember the draft resolution in the General Assembly was the compensation for the fact that the US-proxy sponsored resolution couldn’t get through the Security Council. Obviously, Washington and the governments that the Obama administration is working with would like some kind of a ceasefire. They were hoping to save the terrorists in Aleppo – that didn’t work. But they are obviously trying to preserve terrorist assets anywhere they can.

USA to illegally deploy another 200 troops to Syria. Is it to hide evidence of collaboration?

US rushes troops as Aleppo liberation nears  

US says will deploy 200 extra forces to Syria’s Raqqah

The United States has announced plans to send 200 more troops to Syria to allegedly join operations aimed at retaking the Syrian city of Raqqah from the Daesh terrorist group.

“I can tell you today that the United States will deploy approximately 200 additional US forces in Syria,” US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told a security conference in the Bahraini capital, Manama, on Saturday.

They will add to 300 American special forces already operating in Syria which has been fighting foreign-backed militancy for years.

Carter said troops were only about 25 kilometers away from Raqqah, adding they were helping SDF militants who are mainly comprised of Kurdish fighters.

The announcement came a day after Turkey said it was dispatching 300 special troops to Syria to reinforce its US-backed incursion of the Arab country.

The Turkish army said on Friday its troops and militants had seized control of a highway between the key regional towns of al-Bab and Manbij on Friday.

Damascus has already strongly criticized the United States and Turkey for deploying troops to the Syrian soil, saying it amounts to an act of aggression.


A member of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) looks through the scope of his weapon in Tal Samin village north of Raqqah, November 19, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

The new deployments come at a time of rapidly changing realities on the ground where Syrian troops are tightening the noose around foreign-backed militants.

The Syrian government now controls 93 percent of Aleppo, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Friday, adding troops would continue to liberate the city’s east after the removal of civilians is completed.

The US and its allies have been pushing for a halt to military operations in the face of Syrian army advances in Syria.

Western and Middle Eastern backers of militants fighting to topple the Syrian government were meeting in Paris on Saturday to discuss the situation.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers from Europe and their counterparts from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE were likely to renew calls for an end to the onslaught.

Retreating terrorists now control only a pocket of Syria’s second city, whose fate is seen as pivotal to the outcome of a nearly six-year-old war that has killed more than 300,000 people.

“My goal in all this is… to get both sides, all of the forces, to the table in Geneva. And that’s what we’re working on,” Kerry said as he arrived for the meeting.

The European Union meanwhile said on Friday it would introduce more sanctions on Syria over the offensive in Aleppo.

“The EU will act swiftly … with the aim of imposing further restrictive measures against Syria targeting Syrian individuals and entities supporting the regime as long as the repression continues,” the bloc’s top diplomat Federica Mogherini said.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned the US against easing its alleged arms embargo on militants.

Peskov said US weapons could end up in wrong hands if Washington went ahead with the plan to lift restrictions on arms deliveries to the so-called “moderate” militants.

The warning came a day after the White House said US President Barack Obama had relaxed the so-called Arms Export Control Act for the militants in Syria.

“Certainly, the worst result of this decision would be those weapons, including MANPADs [man-portable anti-air missiles], ending up in the hands of terrorists,” Peskov said.

Last year, Washington earmarked almost $500 million to arming and training of the “moderates.” It had also slackened its arms embargo against certain militants back in 2013.

UN seems to imagine that people can pass from terrorist controlled areas to liberation without being assessed

Alarm raised as hundreds of men from east Aleppo go missing – UN

Families had not heard from them since they fled a week to 10 days ago

Hundreds of men from eastern Aleppo have gone missing after leaving rebel-held areas, the United Nations’ human rights office said, voicing deep concern that government forces could be mistreating them.

U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville also said there were reports that two rebel militias – Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, formerly known as the Nusra Front, and the Abu Amara Battalion – had during the last two weeks abducted and killed an unknown number of civilians in the city who had asked armed groups to leave their neighbourhoods to save the lives of civilians.

Syrian government forces pressed on with their offensive in Aleppo on Thursday night and into today with ground fighting and air strikes, Reuters witnesses, rebels and a monitoring group said, part of a push to retake all of the city’s besieged rebel-held east.

“As pro-government forces have advanced from the north into eastern Aleppo, there have been allegations of reprisals against civilians who are perceived to have supported armed opposition groups, as well as reports that men were being separated from women and children,” Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.

“We have received very worrying allegations that hundreds of men have gone missing after crossing into government-controlled areas.”

The families of the men, who are mainly between 30 and 50 years old, had not heard from them since they fled a week to 10 days ago, he said, adding that it was not clear whether they were civilians.

“Given the terrible record of arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearances, we are of course deeply concerned about the fate of these individuals,” Colville said. “One has to ring some alarm bells.”

“It could mean that some have been killed, it could mean they have been arbitrarily detained and taken somewhere, we just don’t know.”

A senior official of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told Reuters on Dec. 1 that the agency was in talks with the government about gaining access to people fleeing rebel-held eastern Aleppo who were being screened or detained.

Colville said that if rebels were proven to have prevented civilians fleeing to safety, this could amount to a war crime.

“Civilians are caught between warring parties that appear to be operating in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.”

He said tens of thousands had fled the shrinking opposition-held areas of the city, but that at least 100,000 civilians were believed to remain.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard “The US Is Funding Terrorists in Syria”

The US Is Funding Terrorists in Syria

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) may have more sense than all the other democrats (and most republicans) in congress put together.

Ms. Gabbard appeared on the Chutzpah News Network (CNN) and answered questions about her alignment with President-elect Donald Trump on foreign policy. Gabbard denounced the US policy of regime change and support for radical Islamic terror in Syria, accusing Washington of direct material support to the terrorists.

Jake Tapper: “Are you really suggesting that US govt is funding these terrorist groups?”

Tulsi Gabbard: “Ah, I’m not only ‘suggesting’ it. This is… this IS the reality that we’re living in.”

Tapper: “Not directly though??”

Gabbard: “Most Americans… if… if you or I were to provide money, uh weapons, or support or whatever, to a group like Alqaeda or IsIs, we would IMMEDIATELY be thrown in jail! Ah. However, the US government has been providing money, weapons, intel assistance and other types of support, THROUGH the CIA, DIRECTLY to these groups that are WORKING WITH, and are AFFILIATED WITH Al-Qaeda and ISIS!”

Tapper: “So, you’re saying that the CIA is giving monies to groups in Syria, and those groups are ‘working WITH’ Al Nusra and ISIS?”

Gabbard: “There are/there’ve been numerous reports, from the NYT to the WSJ and other news outlets, who have declared that these ‘rebel groups’ have formed these battlefield alliances with Al-Qaeda… that essentially IS Al-Qaeda; groups in charge of EVERY SINGLE ‘rebel group’ on the ground, fighting to overthrow the Syrian Govt.”

Tapper: “The US Govt says that they vet the group that they give money to, very closely. And, that you’re wrong… and that, there are no alliances between groups that the American taxpayers fund, and these other groups; obviously, they ALL are fighting Assad.”

Gabbard: “Uh, I beg to differ; evidence has shown, time and time again, that, that is NOT the case. WE are DIRECTLY and INDIRECTLY supporting these groups who are ALLIED WITH or partnered with alCIAda and ISIS, and working TO overthrow the Syrian government of Assad. And, we’ve also been providing that support THROUGH countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, to do that!”

Gabbard has been floated as a possible Secretary of State in Trump’s administration. She’d sure beat the hell out of blood-soaked brigand John Bolton. And unlike him, she regularly visits a hairdresser – a nice plus for a diplomat.

Reprinted from Russia Insider.

USA’s illegal Strikes on Syrian Troops: Report Data Contradicts ‘Mistake’ Claims

US Strikes on Syrian Troops: Report Data Contradicts ‘Mistake’ Claims

By Gareth Porter,

Operation Inherent Resolve

The summary report on an investigation into US and allied air strikes on Syrian government troops has revealed irregularities in decision-making consistent with a deliberate targeting of Syrian forces.

The report, released by US Central Command on 29 November, shows that senior US Air Force officers at the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) at al-Udeid Airbase in Qatar, who were responsible for the decision to carry out the September airstrike at Deir Ezzor:

  • misled the Russians about where the US intended to strike so Russia could not warn that it was targeting Syrian troops
  • ignored information and intelligence analysis warning that the positions to be struck were Syrian government rather than Islamic State
  • shifted abruptly from a deliberate targeting process to an immediate strike in violation of normal Air Force procedures

Last week Brig. Gen. Richard Coe, the lead US official on the investigating team, told reporters that US air strikes in Deir Ezzor on 17 September, which killed at least 62 – and possibly more than 100 – Syrian army troops, was the unintentional result of “human error”.

The report itself says that the investigators found “no evidence of misconduct” – but it is highly critical of the decision process and does not offer any explanations for that series of irregularities.

How the strikes killed off ceasefire deal

The strikes against two Syrian army positions were the pivotal event in the breakdown of the Syrian ceasefire agreement reached between the United States and Russia in September. Both Moscow and Damascus denounced the strikes as a deliberate move by the Obama administration to support the Islamic State group and cited the attacks as the reason for declaring an end to the ceasefire on 19 September.

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L Harrigan, commander of US Air Forces Central Command and of the CAOC, who was the central figure in all the decisions, apparently had a motive for a strike against Syrian forces.

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter had strongly opposed a provision in the US-Russian ceasefire agreement that would have established a US-Russian “joint integration centre” to coordinate air strikes against both Islamic State (also known as Daesh) and the then-Nusra Front, which was to become active after seven days of effective ceasefire.

But President Barack Obama supported Secretary of State John Kerry’s position and overrode Pentagon objections.

In a press briefing on 13 September, Harrigan stated that his readiness to join such a joint operation with the Russians “is going to depend on what the plan ends up being.” He added: “[I]t would be premature to say we’re going to jump right into it. And I’m not saying yes or no. I’m saying we’ve got work to do to understand what the plan is going to look like.”

Three days later, Harrigan’s command sent a drone to investigate a site three kilometers southwest of Deir Ezzor airfield. It showed images of a tunnel entrance, two tents and 14 adult males, according to the investigation report. That move led to a swiftly moving decision process that resulted in the air strike against two Syrian army bases the following day.

What the US failed to tell the Russians

The investigation report summary reveals that the CAOC sent misleading information to the Russians before the strike about the location of the targets.  The Russians were informed that the targets were nine kilometres south of Deir Ezzor airfield: they were actually only three and six kilometres from that airfield, respectively, according to the summary of its findings.

The investigation report summary reveals that the CAOC sent misleading information to the Russians before the strike about the location of the targets.

Brig. Gen. Richard Coe, who briefed reporters on the team’s report, acknowledged that the misleading information had prevented the Russians from intervening to stop the strike. “Had we told them accurately, they would have warned us,” he told reporters.

Coe said that the provision of that misleading information to the Russians before the strike was “unintentional”. However, neither he nor the redacted summary of the report offered any explanation as to how such misleading information could have been passed to the Russians unintentionally.

From its initial position above the site three kilometers from the airfield, the drone followed a vehicle to two other positions nearby, both of which also had tunnels, as well as “defensive fighting positions”, including tanks and armoured personnel carriers. All those characteristics would have been consistent with a Syrian Army position, especially in Deir Ezzor.

At the time the Syrian Army was fighting from fixed defensive positions to prevent the Deir Ezzor airport – the lifeline for the entire government-held portion of the city – from being overrun.

Nevertheless, those positions were quickly identified as belonging to IS, based primarily on the clothing worn by the personnel at the sites. The report describes the personnel at the two sites as dressed in “a mix of traditional wear, civilian attire and military style clothing that lacked uniformity”.

But a former US intelligence analyst with long experience in image interpretation in combat situations told Middle East Eye that the claim that IS militants could be distinguished from Syrian army troops on the basis of their clothing “sounds completely bogus”. He said he had seen images of Syrian Republican Guards in the field who were not wearing regular uniforms or were dressed in various colours.

Concerns about identity of IS positions

The report also mentions a series of what it calls “breakdowns” regarding intelligence reporting and analysis on the identification of the positions with IS that allegedly was never seen by those making the decisions on targeting.

The regional station belonging to the Air Force’s Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) is the main source of Air Force analysis of intelligence from aerial surveillance. It responded to the initial identification of the positions as belonging to the Islamic State group by raising “concerns” that the ground force in question could not have belonged to the group.

But those concerns never reached Harrigan or his staff, according to the report.

Thirty minutes before the strike was scheduled, someone called into the CAOC to report a “possible flag” in one of two target areas. The call, which contradicted the accepted identification based on the absence of flags at the site, “went unacknowledged”, according to the report.

The report also reveals that a map prepared by an intelligence agency, whose identity is redacted, that was available at the CAOC contradicted the classified map showing areas occupied by the Syrian Army and IS in the vicinity of the Deir Ezzor airfield.

The classified map supported the decision to proceed with the strike. But the officials involved in targeting decisions denied any knowledge of another map.

The report and Coe’s press briefing both explained the conclusion that the positions were under IS control as a result of “confirmation bias”, which means that people seek and accept information that confirms their existing biases.

But citing that concept implies that those responsible for the strike began with an interest in finding evidence to justify an action they already wanted to take.

The report is critical of the discussion on the identification issue within CAOC for focusing only on “what could be seen on the ground rather than what we knew about the ground situation” (emphasis in original report).

That language clearly suggests that Harrigan and his staff were ignoring basic facts about the positions of the Syrian army and IS in the area that was well known to US intelligence.

The switch to ‘dynamic targeting’

Journalist Elijah Magnier of the Kuwait daily newspaper Al Rai has followed the struggle between the Syrian army and IS for control of Deir Ezzor closely for years.

He told Middle East Eye in an email that at the time of the air strike the defence of the airport depended entirely on four interconnected Syrian army positions on the Thardeh mountain chain.

Magnier said IS forces had been carrying out “daily attacks” on Deir Ezzor airport prior to the US air strikes but had failed, mainly because of the higher elevation of the four Syrian bases in relation to the positions occupied by IS further south.

Fabrice Balanche, a leading French expert on Syria who is now a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said in an interview with Middle East Eye that the Syrian army had maintained continuous control over the base at Thardeh mountain from March 2016 until the US air strikes, which then resulted in IS gaining control of it.

The report faults those who made the decisions on the targeting of the strike for failing to follow normal Air Force procedures. Originally, the CAOC had initiated a process called “Deliberate Targeting”, which is used for fixed targets and requires extensive and time-consuming work to ensure the accuracy of the intelligence on the targets, according to the report. But that had been changed abruptly to “Dynamic Targeting”, which involves “fleeting targets” – those that are either moving or about to move – for which intelligence requirements are less stringent.

The authors of the report found that change to be improper, given that the sites being targeted were clearly identified as defensive positions and could not justify such a switch to a hastily prepared strike. But again, it offers no explanation as to why.

Report’s co-author was from ‘foreign government’

The report revealed more than previous investigations into US military operations that resulted in embarrassment. This can be explained by the role of its co-author, whose identity was redacted as “foreign government information”. He or she is most likely a general belonging to one of the other three members of the “Operation Inherent Resolve” coalition whose planes participated in the Deir Ezzor strike, which would narrow it down to the UK, Denmark or Australia.

The two co-authors also went through lengthy negotiations to resolve the differences in the summary report. This is indicated by the repeated postponement of the report’s release, which was originally planned for two weeks earlier, according to sources at Central Command. As a result, the report was certainly less pointed in describing the decision-making than the unidentified co-author would have preferred.

The report observes that it was “unclear who has the responsibility/authority to decide between continuing deliberate target development versus conducting a dynamic strike.” However such decisions could only have been made with the approval of the commander of CAOC – Lt. Gen. Harrigan, who is also commander of US Air Forces Central Command.

The decision to avoid identifying Harrigan as responsible for that decision may be related to the fact he was also the recipient of the report.

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