Delta Force Soldier on Raid Against ISIS Killed In Syria


By Debbie Gregory.

Master Sgt. Jonathan Dunbar, 36, of Austin, Texas, was killed near Manbij, Syria on March 30th by an improvised explosive device.

A member of the Army’s elite Delta Force, Dunbar was on a mission to kill or capture a member of the Islamic State terrorist group.

In recent weeks, Manbij has seen an assassination attempt against a senior Kurdish official on the highway outside the town and a number of small explosions. Authorities imposed a curfew after 11 p.m., and in recent days barred motorcycles from moving around the town after sunset.

Few details about the mission on which Dunbar and a British soldier were killed have been released so far.

Dunbar’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal (third award), the Army Commendation Medal (fourth award), the Army Achievement Medal (sixth award), the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars, the Iraq Campaign Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars, the Ranger Tab, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Expert Infantryman Badge, the Pathfinder Badge, the Military Freefall Jumpmaster Badge, and the Parachutist Badge.

Dunbar is the fourth American service member to die in Syria since the U.S. began attacking Islamic State group militants there in September 2014, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Casualty Analysis System.

The others were Air Force Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren, whose death was specifically labeled by the Pentagon as noncombat related; Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott C. Dayton, who was killed by an improved explosive device; and Army Spc. Etienne J. Murphy, who died in a vehicle rollover.

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Some US Military Options in Syria


By Debbie Gregory.

When considering a U.S. military option to help end the Syrian civil war, following the collapse of a temporary ceasefire negotiated in September, the Obama administration could be considering these options.

Imposing a no-fly zone over Syria: This would mean all aircraft would require prior permission to fly over Syria, or risk being shot down.

This action would require a number of aircraft in the skies to monitor and patrol, take out threats or violators, and conduct search and rescue missions, which would be resource intensive. Opponents believe this action would take resources away from the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Another downside would be the threat of the U.S. being drawn into a war with Russia or Syria, if they violated the no-fly zone and sparked a confrontation.

Establishing safe zones: A safe zone would be a designated area where civilians can take refuge from military threats. The zones could be protected on the ground by an international coalition of forces, with air support provided by the U.S. Patriot missile systems in Jordan and Turkey.

The downside to a safe zone is that this would require a lot of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to detect violations, as well as ground forces to protect the zone.

Target Assad’s air force:Another option would be grounding Syrian leader Bashar Assad’s air force.

Ret. Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, said grounding the air force would take far fewer resources than implementing a no-fly zone, and could be done within 24 hours.

The downside to this option is that it could cross over into “acts of war” against Syria — something the Obama administration has wanted to avoid thus far.

Another option could be providing anti-aircraft systems, including man-portable air-defense systems to the rebels fighting the regime. That could help them take down Russian and regime aircraft, particularly low flying military helicopters dropping barrel bombs.

But the administration has had concerns antiaircraft weapons would fall into terrorists’ hands and be smuggled into the U.S. or used against U.S. air assets.

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Pentagon Firmly Against Military Intervention in Syria


For years, the Pentagon has been against direct U.S. military action in Syria’s civil war.

Early last month, defense officials objected to a deal reached with Moscow by Secretary of State John F. Kerry that would couple a cease-fire and delivery of humanitarian aid with U.S.-Russian counterterrorism cooperation against the Islamic State and al-Qaeda-linked forces in Syria.

But the cease-fire did not hold. The U.N. Security Council is deadlocked over how to respond to the Aleppo crisis and the U.S. and Russia have failed to reach an agreement on renewing the short-lived cease-fire.

A statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with Secretary Kerry in Lausanne, Switzerland, to discuss efforts to find a peace deal in Syria. This would be the first face-to-face encounter between the two men since Washington broke off diplomatic contact with Moscow over the violence in Aleppo earlier this month.

Amid increasing internal tension, one senior administration official insisted that both the Syrian opposition and U.S. allies have pressed for a continuation of negotiations and discouraged talk of military intervention. Obama’s position on the subject, this official said, has been “consistent. We do not believe there is a military solution to this conflict. There are any number of challenges that come with applying military force in this context.”

The State Department said Kerry would meet with “key regional partners” in Lausanne to discuss ways to resolve the Syria crisis, without specifying who they were. It said Kerry would discuss a “multilateral approach” to ending the crisis, “including a sustained cessation of violence and the resumption of humanitarian aid deliveries.”

In Obama’s recent speech at the United Nations, the official noted, Obama repeated that “there’s no ultimate military victory to be won” in Syria. Instead, Obama said, “we’re going to have to pursue the hard work of diplomacy that aims to stop the violence, and deliver aid to those in need, and support those who pursue a political settlement.”

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Top US Commander Makes Secret Trip to Syria


By Debbie Gregory.

On a secret trip to Syria, Army Gen. Joseph Votel,  the new commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said that he went because he felt a moral obligation to check on his troops and see, first hand, the progress of local Arab and Kurd fighters pushing  ISIS out of Syria.

“I have responsibility for this mission, and I have responsibility for the people that we put here,” the four star general said.

The visit comes as the first of 250 additional U.S. special operations forces are beginning to arrive in Syria to work with local forces.

Votel, who has headed U.S. Central Command for just seven weeks, is the highest-ranking U.S. military official to travel into Syria during its war. This was the first daylight U.S. transport mission into Syria.

Gen. Votel’s visit to northern Syria was in conjunction with a trip to other countries in the region. It comes amid an effort by the U.S. military to accelerate efforts to bring more local Arab and Kurdish forces into the fight in both Syria and Iraq to fight ISIS.

The U.S. troops are focused on training local forces on very specialized tasks, such as how to call in precise and timely intelligence reports from the battlefield that could result in coalition airstrikes against ISIS targets.

A small group of reporters accompanied Votel under ground rules that, for security reasons, prohibited disclosing his visit until after he had left Syria.

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Military Connection: ISIS Shifting Its Resources Into Syria

US jet

By Debbie Gregory.

The Pentagon has confirmed that the Islamic State in Iraq is moving some of its resources to Syria in order to reinforce its holdings. Airstrikes against the terrorist group, also commonly referred to as ISIS or ISIL, are having the desired effect.

Coalition ground forces consisting of Iraq’s military and Shiite and Kurdish militias­ are being backed by airstrikes, as well as military advisors from the U.S., the UK, and a collection of other Western, Middle-Eastern, and African nations. The airstrikes are taking a heavy toll on Islamic State assets, clearing the way for the ground forces to push ahead.

In Syria, the U.S. and Canada are joined by several Middle-Eastern nations to provide airstrikes and military advisors to the Syrian Opposition and Syrian Kurdistan, as they join forces with the Syrian government to fight against the Islamic State. Much like the gains being made in Iraq, the Syrian forces are starting to have an impact against the Islamic State. The terrorist group is pulling back some of its weapons and fighters from Iraq in order to try reinforce the holdings in Syria that are no longer secure.

There have been more than 3,200 airstrikes conducted in both Iraq and Syria. According to the Pentagon’s Chief of Staff of the military task force against the Islamic State, Marine Corps Brigadier General Thomas Weidley, the combined airstrikes and ground operations are forcing the Islamic State to relocate its resources to the Syrian theater.

Officials at the Pentagon have said that the campaign against the Islamic State is unfolding as expected. They knew it would be a long, difficult, but necessary undertaking.  And while the Islamic State has not fully withdrawn into Syria, the coalition airstrikes are having an impact.

The U.S.-led coalition is nearing the completion of phase one of the campaign against the Islamic State, as stated by President Obama, to “degrade, dismantle and ultimately defeat” the terrorist group. Both the Islamic State’s forces and its territory has been degraded by coalition efforts.

Iraqi Security Forces have regained over 25 percent of territory from the Islamic State in Iraq. Once the coalition dismantles and defeats the Islamic State in Iraq, the focus can shift to Syria.

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Military Connection: ISIS Shifting Its Resources Into Syria: By Debbie Gregory