Monday 19 March 2018

Obama to order special forces attacks on Islamic State

Peter Foster

President Barack Obama has opened the door to US special forces taking the fight directly to Isil, saying he would be prepared to authorise lightning-strike combat missions to take out terrorist targets.

Mr Obama raised the possibility as he delivered a White House address requesting a new authorisation to use force in Iraq and Syria from the Republican-controlled US Congress.

"If we had actionable intelligence about a gathering of Isil leaders, and our partners didn't have the capacity to get them, I would be prepared to order our special forces to take action because I will not allow these terrorists to have a safe haven," he said.

Mr Obama made clear that US combat forces would not be recommitted to a prolonged ground war of the kind seen in Afghanistan and Iraq after the September 11 attacks.

However, by raising the hypothetical prospect of US command raids in Syria and Iraq, Mr Obama appeared to hint at an expanded campaign against Isil, just days after it was confirmed that Kayla Mueller, the last US hostage held by the militants, had been killed.

Although White House officials say that Mr Obama is fully authorised to use force in Syria and Iraq under the dispensation granted to George W Bush in 2002, the president said he was requesting a limited, three-year authorisation that reflected the current mission.

To date the US mission against jihadis in Iraq and Syria has been limited to 2,600 troops who have been advising and training Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, supported by the US-led air campaign.

Mr Obama has deployed US special forces on more than one occasion in order to try and rescue western hostages held by Isil, although all those missions have returned empty-handed.

Meanwhile, Japan said yesterday that it is joining the international campaign to identify, locate and bring to justice the Isil member known as "Jihadi John".

A police investigation set up in Tokyo will request assistance from Britain and the US to confirm the identity of the man, who appeared in a series of videos in January that purportedly showed the execution of two Japanese nationals. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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