US Central Command on Tuesday said that US forces launched raids in eastern Syria and captured six ISIS “operatives,” marking the second time this month that CENTCOM conducted operations against ISIS.
“Over the past 48 hours, US Central Command forces conducted three helicopter raids in eastern Syria resulting in the detention of six ISIS operatives, including al-Zubaydi, an Islamic State Syria Province Senior Official involved in the planning and facilitation of ISIS attacks in Syria,” CENTCOM said in a press release.
According to The New York Times, the raids were conducted by US special operations forces alongside members of the Kurdish-led SDF. “These partnered operations reaffirm CENTCOM’s steadfast commitment to the region and the enduring defeat of ISIS,” said Gen. Michael Kurilla, the head of CENTCOM.
CENTCOM said earlier this month that US forces conducted a helicopter raid in eastern Syria on December 11 in which two ISIS “officials” were killed in a three-hour gun battle. In all the operations this month, CENTCOM insisted that no civilians were harmed, but the Pentagon is known for undercounting civilian casualties, and few details have been shared about the raids.
ISIS controls no significant territory in Syria, and US operations against the group are usually against a small number of fighters. The US maintains that its occupation of eastern Syria is necessary to fight ISIS, but the presence is more about the economic campaign against Damascus, which involves crippling economic sanctions that are having a devastating impact on Syrian civilians.
Tensions have been high in northeast Syria between Turkey and the US-backed SDF since Ankara launched a series of airstrikes against the group in November over their alleged role in a bombing in Istanbul. Unhappy with the US effort to stop a Turkish incursion, the SDF is looking to make a deal with Damascus, but such an arrangement is unlikely as long as the US remains in Syria.