US Central Command (CENTCOM) has said its forces launched a “unilateral strike” in Syria on Monday and claimed it killed a senior ISIS leader.
CENTCOM said the man’s name was Khalid Aydd Ahmad al-Jabouri and claimed he was responsible for planning terrorist attacks in Europe and Turkey. The command said no civilians were harmed in the strike, but the Pentagon is notorious for undercounting civilian casualties.
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the US attack was a drone strike and hit a target in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, which is mainly controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an al-Qaeda-linked group.
Also on Tuesday, CENTCOM released a summary of its operations against ISIS in Iraq and Syria in March. According to the command, it was involved in nine “partnered operations” in Syria that killed a total of two ISIS “operatives” and detained 11 more.
While the US says it’s in Syria to fight ISIS, the presence is also part of the economic campaign against Damascus. By backing the Kurdish-led SDF, the US controls a sizeable portion of eastern Syria and controls most of the country’s oil fields.
The US occupation of Syria always risks sparking a wider war as US bases in the region often come under attack. A US contractor was killed in a recent escalation that led the US to launch airstrikes against what the Pentagon said were Iranian-aligned groups and killed eight militants, although Tehran denied the US account.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley recently visited Syria and said fighting ISIS was worth the risk of staying in the country. But Damascus and its allies are all sworn enemies of ISIS and would continue to fight against the terror group if the US withdraws.