SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) The U.S. and its allies mounted new attacks on oil assets controlled by Islamic State and expanded their campaign to another front, aiding besieged Syrian Kurds battling the extremist group in a strategic city on the Turkish border, officials said.
The strikes over the weekend in Syria and Iraq included attacks on Islamic State positions near the city of Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, in the Syria-Turkish border area.
This marked an expansion of the U.S. approach, coming to the aid of Kurds in Syria for the first time as they fight Islamic State forces on the ground.
President Barack Obama said in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” that U.S. intelligence had underestimated the extent to which political chaos in Syria over the past several years would create an environment for Islamic State to thrive. “This became ground zero for jihadists around the world,” he said.
The group has captured large tracts of land in both Iraq and Syria over the past few months. It has persecuting and killed minorities, terrorized the population and beheaded three Western hostages captured in Syria.
Mr. Obama said Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, was able to attract former members of Saddam Hussein’s military in Iraq who brought a more sophisticated military strategy to the movement.
This “gave them some traditional military capacity and not just terrorist capacity,” he said, adding that it was “absolutely true” that the U.S. overestimated the ability and willingness of the Iraqi government to push back against Islamic State.
House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) indicated on Sunday that sending in American combat troops could become necessary to eliminate the Islamic State threat. While Mr. Obama has said that he opposes sending U.S. ground troops into combat, Mr. Boehner suggested that those troops might be needed if the international coalition can’t defeat the militants.
“At some point, somebody’s boots have to be on the ground,” Mr. Boehner said on ABC News “This Week.”
The U.S. said on Sunday that its forces along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates targeted four modular refineries and a command facility north of Raqqa—Islamic State’s de facto capital in northeastern Syria. The U.S. Central Command said it was continuing to assess the attacks, adding that “initial indications are that they were successful.”
The U.S. also conducted two airstrikes near oil-rich Deir Ezzour province that destroyed one militant tank and damaged another, according to the Central Command. An airstrike in northeast Syria destroyed three armed vehicles and a Humvee.
All of the allied aircraft exited the area safely, the officials said.
The weekend’s strikes on refineries continued an effort begun in recent days, when the U.S. and allies targeted 12 modular refineries controlled by Islamic State in remote areas of eastern Syria. Defense officials said the strikes aimed to cut off a source of income for Islamic State militants, who smuggle oil from seized infrastructure and sell it on the black market.
In Iraq, a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad destroyed an Islamic State safe house and damaged a checkpoint, officials said Sunday. Three strikes near Fallujah destroyed two militant checkpoints and a transport vehicle.
Military officials said the tempo of strikes over the weekend would continue in coming days.
“What you’ll see is airstrikes in Iraq focused on supporting Iraqi security forces combined with strikes in Syria, which are primarily focused on choking off ISIL’s ability to provide support to their forces in Iraq,” said Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.