Fo­cus turns to US forces’ role as IS fight con­tin­ues

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

WASH­ING­TON: As Pres­i­dent Barack Obama pre­pares to leave of­fice and step down as com­man­der-in-chief of Amer­ica’s mil­i­tary, a flap has erupted over the se­cre­tive com­man­dos who have be­come his go-to coun­tert­er­ror­ist force across the globe. Obama’s for­eign mil­i­tary pol­icy has cen­tered on the tar­geted killings of ter­ror suspects-usu­ally by drone strikes-and he has or­dered such ac­tions in coun­tries in­clud­ing Iraq, Syria, So­ma­lia, Ye­men and Libya.

But when it comes to ground ac­tion, the pres­i­dent has steered away from large-scale troop de­ploy­ments and fa­vored the light foot­print of­fered by Amer­ica’s hush-hush Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand (SOCOM). The cur­rent ker­fuf­fle stems from a Wash­ing­ton Post story that said SOCOM, specif­i­cally its su­per-se­cret wing called the Joint Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand (JSOC), is be­ing granted new pow­ers to track and po­ten­tially at­tack ter­ror cells around the world.

The Post said JSOC could in some cases even op­er­ate uni­lat­er­ally, without hav­ing to go through the reg­u­lar US mil­i­tary com­mand struc­ture re­spon­si­ble for op­er­a­tions across par­tic­u­lar parts of the world. The re­ported move ruf­fled feath­ers in other mil­i­tary units and among gov­ern­ment agen­cies such as the CIA that also track for­eign ji­hadists. They wor­ried JSOC was be­ing granted too much author­ity.

It “has caused for some fric­tion in (the) gov­ern­ment,” a se­nior mil­i­tary of­fi­cial said, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity. So this week, se­nior Pen­tagon of­fi­cials moved to tamp down the story, say­ing SOCOM was not get­ting new pow­ers, and that it would con­tinue to op­er­ate within the long-es­tab­lished com­mand struc­tures.

Though se­cre­tive by trade, SOCOM has gained wide celebrity in Amer­ica thanks to the count­less books and movies de­pict­ing raids by its var­i­ous teams. This has long been a source of re­sent­ment for other mil­i­tary units, which some­times feel over­looked when it comes to get­ting credit for Amer­ica’s coun­tert­er­ror­ism ef­forts. Per­haps the most fa­mous raid in­volv­ing SOCOM fight­ers was the May 2011 as­sault by Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden in Pak­istan.

New in­tel-shar­ing cen­ter

Though the Pen­tagon dis­puted parts of the Post story, the brouhaha did high­light the in­creased re­liance Amer­ica has placed on com­man­dos fight­ing IS. De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter in Oc­to­ber said he had put JSOC “in the lead” of coun­ter­ing IS ef­forts to carry out ex­ter­nal at­tacks. “We have al­ready achieved very sig­nif­i­cant re­sults both in re­duc­ing the flow of for­eign fight­ers and re­mov­ing ISIL lead­ers from the bat­tle­field,” he told re­porters, us­ing an IS acro­nym.

— AFP

ALEPPO: Syr­ian civil­ians ar­rive at a check­point, manned by pro-gov­ern­ment forces, at the Al-Ha­woz street round­about, af­ter leav­ing Aleppo’s east­ern neigh­bor­hoods.

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