A fusion of U.S. special operations forces and local militia are about to bloody the so-called Islamic State, and just possibly drive them out of their de facto capital.
But no one expects a decisive victory against ISIS. The commanders of those forces met in Tampa this past week near U.S. Special Operations Command headquarters to share lessons learned, and lament that the more they learn about ISIS, the longer and harder they think this fight will be.
“Innovative…agile, redundant, resilient.” That’s how a grim faced Air Force Brig. Gen. Albert “Buck” Elton described ISIS to a crowd a couple thousand strong, including senior foreign special operations chiefs who are part of coalition fighting ISIS, and other violent extremists like al-Qaeda.
“They are willing to fail multiple times,” said Elton, the deputy commanding general for the top U.S. military counterterrorist unit, the Joint Special Operations Command. “They are willing to accept tremendous losses to advance their cause.”
It was a rare glimpse into the analysis that drives the elite hunting force better known as JSOC, whose counterterrorist mission is actually classified. JSOC is leading a motley crew of U.S. special forces of all stripes advising and sometimes fighting alongside local Kurdish and Arab militia in Syria, and Kurdish and Iraqi armies in Iraq against ISIS.
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