January 3, 2017

U.S. Air Force strike on Al-Qa'idah affiliate headquarters in Syria

The video above was produced by the Arabic-language STEP News Agency, which provides detailed reporting on the situation in Syria. I suspect they have anti-regime leanings, but I find their reporting to be concise and accurate.

This clip is just 42 seconds long, but conveys the essence of the recent U.S. Air Force strike on what has been described as a headquarters of the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS).

The Arabic jabhat fatah al-sham translates to the Levant Conquest Front, the new name of Jabhat al-Nusrah, or the Victory Front. In July 2016, al-Nusrah renounced its affiliation with al-Qa'idah and adopted the JFS moniker. No one buys it - we all consider them to still be loyal to al-Qa'idah.

Here are my translations of the captions on the video:

- American B-52 bombers of the international coalition

- Took off from the Incirlik air base in Turkey

- And targeted a headquarters of the Jabhat Fatah al-Sham in Sarmada in the Idlib Countryside

- Resulting in the destruction of the headquarters and the killing of 25 members of the group

- Also, 11 [other leaders] were killed over the last two days in coalition bombing of two cars belonging to the group

- Including commanders of the highest level

Sarmada is located in Idlib governorate about 20 miles north of the city of Idlib and about 20 miles west of the city of Aleppo.

This is an area in which U.S. drones have mounted strikes against JFS targets for some time. In fact, the initial American Tomahawk missile and air strikes in Syria in 2014 targeted al-Qa'idah related positions in this area.

Other reports place the death toll at 30, resulting from the attack by U.S. Air Force B-52 bombers firing at least four conventional air-launched cruise missiles (CALCM). The standard warhead of the CALCM is 3000 pounds of high explosives.

Reactions to the strike were interesting. While most analysts agree that JFS targets are not affected by the recent Russian-Turkish negotiated ceasefire, critics asked why it was possible for American aircraft to strike JFS targets, yet could not support anti-regime rebels or protect safe zones in northern Syria. They also want to know why the Americans are targeting a group that is anti-regime and also anti-ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).

My answer to the critics: Al-Qa'idah is a special case for Americans. It was al-Qa'idah that came to our shores in 2001 and killed over 3000 of us. It has been the policy of the United States, with overwhelming popular support regardless of party or politics, to hunt down and kill these thugs - whoever, whenever and wherever. These just happened to be in Syria.

It may take years, even decades, but in the end, the United States will continue to either bring these killers to justice, or as we have seen here in Syria, bring justice to them.