U.S. Special Operations forces participating in a highly secretive ground operation led by the Army’s elite Delta Force apprehended their first suspected Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadist in Northern Iraq, reports CNN.
“The detainee is being interrogated by the U.S. and is expected to be turned over to Iraqi officials in the coming days, two U.S. officials confirmed,” notes the news outlet. “They provided details to CNN but asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter, and they did not identify the location of the interrogation.”
“The mission was carried out by the Pentagon’s expeditionary targeting force,” it adds. “Defense Secretary Ash Carter acknowledged the expeditionary targeting force has been sent to Iraq to conduct raids against ISIS and to capture or kill suspects.”
After gathering intelligence on the ground over a span of several weekends, the force captured the jihadist in its first group of missions.
“The plan now is to use the new intelligence gleaned from raids and interrogations to develop further targeting for follow-up missions,” reports CNN.
“Special Operations forces captured the wife of key ISIS [Islamic State] figure Abu Sayyaf during a raid in Syria last year and subsequently turned her over to Iraqi authorities,” it adds. “U.S. officials have long said the information gleaned from her helped them decide to form a special targeting force.”
A U.S.-led coalition has been combating jihadists, primarily the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), in Iraq and Syria since August 2015.
The American troops participating in the international coalition are now engaging in ground operations despite President Obama’s vow to keep U.S. troops out of combat.
Nevertheless, U.S. defense officials have acknowledged that the United States will deploy hundreds of special operation forces to combat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, including some who will participate in ground combat operations.
“A raid is a combat operation; there’s no way around that,” Army Col. Steve Warren, the Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, told reporters in December. “So yeah, more Americans will be coming here to Iraq and some of them will be conducting raids inside of both Iraq and Syria.”
The spokesmen noted that only a “small number of highly skilled commandos” will take on the jihadists, adding that they will be helping to direct limited, but precise surgical airstrikes.
The number of commandos who will participate in ground combat operations to kill ISIS jihadists will only be in the double digits, noted Warren, adding that the rest will provide mission support.
Early last month, Col. Warren acknowledged that the real number of American troops serving on the ground in Iraq is hundreds more than the 3,650 figure often cited by Obama administration officials.
The Obama administration has deployed an estimated 50 U.S. Special Forces troops into northern Syria to coordinate with local Kurds combating ISIS on the ground, claiming that they will not be engaged in combat operations.
A “cessation of hostilities,” brokered by the United States and Russia, took effect in Syria over the weekend. Under the truce, the Syrian government, Russia, and the U.S.-led coalition reserve the right to continue attacks against ISIS or the al-Qaeda affiliate known as al-Nusra Front, both of which have been designated terrorist organizations by the international community.
The ceasefire also excludes other outfits the United Nations has designated as terror organizations.