U.S. strikes on al Qaeda group in Syria did not inflict decisive blow, say sources

Syrian Kurdish refugees sit next to their belongings in a field where they spent the night near Mursitpinar border crossing in the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Syrian Kurdish refugees sit next to their belongings in a field where they spent the night near Mursitpinar border crossing in the southeastern Turkish town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province September 30, 2014. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Oct 3 (Reuters) – U.S. airstrikes in Syria in September that were aimed at a faction of al Qaeda militants said to be plotting attacks against the West failed to deliver a decisive blow against them, U.S. officials familiar with the operation said late this week.

While U.S. intelligence agencies are still assessing the results of the Tomahawk cruise missile strikes, three U.S. officials said indications are that many suspected leaders and members of the Khorasan Group escaped, along with high-tech explosive devices they were said to be preparing to attack civil aviation or similar targets.

“They thought people were there but they were not there,” said one U.S. official familiar with the Obama administration’s plan.

This official and others spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the Sept. 22 airstrikes, many details of which are classified.

The targets of the strikes were fighters from the Khorasan Group, which is how the U.S. government refers to a cell of al Qaeda veterans who had relocated to Syria from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

At the time of the strikes, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said they were conducted to “disrupt imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western targets.”

Federal Bureau of Investigations director James Comey told reporters on Sept. 25 that he was “not confident” that the plots against the United States had been disrupted…

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