WASHINGTON — The failed attempt to rescue journalist James Foleybefore he was killed by Islamic State militants – and the ongoing efforts to track down other American hostages before it’s too late – illustrate a glaring shortcoming in US military capabilities: that good US military intelligence on these militant groups is in short supply.
Although the Pentagon greenlighted the deployment of Special Operations Forces (SOF) to Syria – along with the US military’s most high-tech air and ground components – the mission did not result in a rescue.
“Unfortunately, the mission was not successful, because the hostages were not present at the targeted location,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement Wednesday evening.
Even so, defense officials sought to put a positive spin on the mission. “This operation, by the way, was a flawless operation,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a briefing with reporters Thursday afternoon. “But the hostages were not there.”
The Pentagon’s unusual confirmation of a failed Special Forces mission – made at the behest of the White House – was in large part an effort to reassure the American public that the United States has not sat idly by during the meteoric rise of the Islamic State (IS).