Early this morning, US Special Forces supported a Iraqi Peshmerga operation to save hostages at an ISIS prison near Hawijah, Iraq. 69 hostages in total were rescued, including more than 20 members of the Iraqi Security Forces. Five ISIS members were detained by Iraqi forces, and a number of them were killed. The Pentagon also told reporters that the US gathered “important intelligence” on ISIS during the operation. One American soldier was killed, and three Directorate General of Counterterrorism personnel--part of the Kurdish Region Security Council (KRSC)--were injured. Initial reports of the operation reported that the hostages saved were Kurdish, but an official statement by the KRSC states that there were “no Kurds among the rescued hostages.”
A Pentagon press brief on the operation also underscored the fact that no Kurds were among the hostages that were rescued. Rather, most were Iraqi Arabs.
ISIS Media also confirmed that the the prison raid occurred, but said that the mission was a failure due to the fact that no Iraqi Peshmerga were freed.
The situation gets more interesting when examining the reason for US involvement in this particular operation. A statement released by the Pentagon regarding the operation explicitly states that US support came “at the request of the Kurdistan Regional Government.”
The statement went on to say that the hostages were in immediate danger, and US involvement in the operation, which included helicopter and troop assistance to Peshmerga forces, was consistent with current US counter-ISIS policies.
This operation was deliberately planned and launched after receiving information that the hostages faced imminent mass execution. It was authorized consistent with our counter-ISIL effort to train, advise, and assist Iraqi forces.
While it is fairly well known that the US and Kurdish forces are close allies in the fight against ISIS, the involvement of Special Ops forces in the field, or “boots on the ground,” is a seemingly sharp departure of current US anti-ISIS activity. Only time will tell if this signals an increased involvement for US forces, or an even tighter bond between the US and Kurds in the region.
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