This May, Delta Force launched a raid into ISIS-controlled territory within Syria to capture/kill Abu Sayyaf, said to be a key leader within the terrorist organization. While no one can, or should, try to take anything away from the accomplishments of the Delta operators and JSOC personnel involved in the raid, there are a number of peculiarities surrounding it that are worth mentioning.
Within minutes of the raid taking place, almost as soon as Delta boots were safely back on Kurdish soil, CNN was touting what was sold as the inside story of the raid. At the risk of sounding like someone suffering from professional jealousy, I could not help but think that the story we were being sold sounded like talking points intentionally leaked to the press.
CNN spun a narrative about a daring raid to capture a critical leadership node within ISIS. The Delta operators moved in to capture Sayyaf, but he hid behind a woman! Delta was forced to kill him, but they did capture his wife, and not only that, they also found a treasure trove of intelligence information. Considering that Seymour Hersh‘s story refuting the Obama administration’s assertions about the Bin Laden raid, I was pretty shocked that the same talking points were simply recycled. Bin Laden hid behind a woman. Sayyaf hid behind a woman. SEAL Team Six got a massive amount of intel off of the OBL hit, as did Delta on the Sayyaf operation.
I’m starting to think that JSOC needs to hire some new screenwriters. We were even told that the American soldiers liberated a Yazidi sex slave from the objective. If true, this was certainly a righteous action, as was the killing of Sayyaf. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that we were being told about a sex slave to sell that idea that Sayyaf is a really, really bad guy.
A few days later, the Daily Beast ran an even sillier story that claimed that the Delta operators even engaged in hand-to-hand combat on the objective!
We got to watch the veterans and aficionados lose their minds on social media, decrying insider leaks. No one can keep a secret these days. Or can they? Answer me this, is there currently a massive counter-intelligence investigation ongoing within JSOC to uncover who leaked the information? Has anyone been removed from command? No, this was a controlled leak, and the public was told exactly the story that JSOC wanted floated out there. And they used their flock of kept journalists to do it.
The real story is that JSOC, the CIA, and U.S. Army Special Forces are conducting extremely limited operations into ISIS territory or against ISIS in general. In most cases, they are simply training proxies such as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), or hiring local contractors to go in and do whatever work needs to be done. Sources report to SOFREP that most of the fighter jet sorties flown over ISIS territory are actually coming back and landing with all of their ordnance still on the plane. The airstrikes are not working, ISIS is not on the ropes, and we have chosen a very poor proxy force in the FSA.
The Special Operations community and the White House are attempting to squeeze blood from a stone by hyping the very occasional Delta operation in Syria as some spectacular success. The truth is that American forces are not that different than the other players on the ground—from the Kurdish Peshmerga to Iraqi Army units. We are fighting as little as possible but trying to make it look like we are fighting a lot. On that note, I guess we can give our military props for a little information-operation victory, but let us not kid ourselves.
We’re spinning our wheels in Iraq and Syria, and no one is coming up with effective solutions.