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ISIS Can’t Beat The U.S. Special Forces



  • U.S. special operations forces have killed 40 top level ISIS members responsible for the attack on Paris and Brussels.
  • The U.S. special operations forces have been working together in the region since last December.
  • The killings have been credited with stopping the flow of new recruits into ISIS.
  • The special operations forces are a blend of U.S. Army’s Delta Force and the Navy SEALs’ Naval Special Warfare Development Group along with Green Berets who specialize in learning foreign languages and cultures, and training local forces.

Delta Force and Navy SEALs have crippled the group’s ability to recruit foreign fighters and put pressure on the network responsible for striking Europe and Africa.

As the self-proclaimed Islamic State trumpets its global terrorist campaign, U.S. special operations forces have quietly killed more than three dozen key ISIS operatives blamed for plotting deadly attacks in Europe and beyond.

Defense officials tell The Daily Beast that U.S. special operators have killed 40 “external operations leaders, planners, and facilitators” blamed for instigating, plotting, or funding ISIS’s attacks from Brussels and Paris to Egypt and Africa.

That’s less than half the overall number of ISIS targets that special operators have taken off the battlefield, one official explained, including top leaders like purported ISIS second-in-command Haji Imam, killed in March.

The previously unpublished number provides a rare glimpse into the U.S. counterterrorist mission that is woven into overall coalition efforts to defeat ISIS, and which is credited with crippling ISIS efforts to recruit foreign fighters and carry out more plots like the deadly assault on Paris that killed 130 last fall.

As proof of the campaign’s overall success, Pentagon officials this week said the overall size of ISIS from a high estimate of 33,000 a year ago to between 19,000 to 25,000 fighters, and that the influx of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria had dropped from up to 2,000 a month last year to just 200. The Secretary of Defense Ash Carter was more cautious about that figure in testimony Thursday morning, saying it is “hard to be accurate” estimating foreign fighter flow, but that the numbers generally are falling. That’s set against the warning by Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper this week that ISIS cells are likely already in place across Europe.

That’s set against the warning by Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper this week that ISIS cells are likely already in place across Europe.

The U.S. strikes have picked up pace since Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the deployment of special operations forces to northern Iraq last December, under the unwieldy moniker of “Expeditionary Targeting Force,” the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to describe the special operations mission publicly.

The officials expect that tempo to rise as the newly expanded special operations advising team inside Syria also grows from 50 to up to 300, as President Obama announced in Germany on Monday.


Officials say the Syria-based U.S. special operators help stitch together the disparate members of the Syrian Defense Force and vet others who want to join the mission, while also gathering intelligence on the ground that leads to strikes.

The CIA, NSA, and other elements of the U.S. intelligence community are also driving the effort, finding and feeding the intelligence to the coalition strike force.

At the top of the special operations target list is the network of ISIS operatives blamed for “external operations”: 60 attacks in 21 countries that have killed 1,000 people since January 2015, the officials said. Most of the ISIS targets were killed in Syria, by special operations combat aircraft, but also by troops who attempted to capture a handful of high value ISIS targets in raids. All of those targets resisted arrest and were killed, the officials said.

That grim tally includes the previously announced December killing of Syrian-based ISIS member Charaffe al-Mouadan, who officials have concluded had direct ties to Abdel Hamid Abaoud, the leader of the ISIS cell that attacked Paris last November. Mouadan was among an estimated 10 militants taken out in a spec-ops air strike.

Another was Abdul Kader Hakim, killed in Mosul in December. The Pentagon called Hakim an “external operations facilitator” and a forgery specialist with links to the Paris attack network.

It’s not clear how many civilians may have been caught in the special operations-related strikes. The U.S. has admitted to accidentally killing 41 civilians in the 20 months since coalition strikes began.

Sometimes the kills or attempted captures are not announced, in order to see how ISIS responds, one of the senior officials explained. “What are they doing, what are they saying, who are they communicating to? How do they backfill the missing operator?” he said. Those reactions can reveal weakness the U.S. task force can exploit.

The point of such operations is to keep ISIS guessing,” he said.

Defense officials acknowledge the downside of the secrecy of the operations is that humanitarian and human rights organizations that try to serve as neutral arbiters in war zones don’t always know who to call when civilians report allegations of casualties or damage in the aftermath of a military strike—or when someone goes missing, possibly taken in a raid. Two senior defense officials said they were actively working to establish and maintain relationships with such agencies in areas where their troops operate, including sharing with the International Committee of the Red Cross details of any detainees taken within a short time of their capture, as per Pentagon policy on detainees.

“Defense regulations… stipulate that information concerning detainees in U.S. military custody should be provided to the ICRC normally within 14 days,” ICRC spokesman Anna Nelson said. “In practice, as soon as we are made aware of a new detainee in U.S. custody, we will get in contact with the U.S. authorities to organize a visit.”

The special operations counterterrorist mission is spearheaded by troops from the Joint Special Operations Command, the U.S. military’s premier counterterrorist unit.

But unlike previous conflicts, where JSOC raiders worked in secret, usually apart from other types of special operators, the Iraq and Syria teams blend specialists from multiple disciplines. “Door kickers” from units like the U.S. Army’s Delta Force and the Navy SEALs’ Naval Special Warfare Development Group who train for hostage rescue missions or kill-capture raids are paired with operators like Green Berets who specialize in learning foreign languages and cultures, and training local forces.

“The teams are integrated in just about everything we do,” one defense official said.

The mixing of troops may have something to do with the background of those in charge of the ISIS fight. Current JSOC commander Lt. Gen. Austin S. Miller and his predecessor Gen. Tony Thomas both ran the overall special operations task force in Afghanistan, which blended the different skills of very different, sometimes competing spec-ops tribes.

Thomas now runs the U.S. Special Operations Command. Miller most recently commanded Fort Benning, Georgia, where he oversaw the U.S. Army Ranger School that produced the first successful women candidates ahead of the Pentagon’s decision to open all combat roles to women.

And Gen. Joseph Votel, who previously led both USSOCOM and JSOC, now runs the ISIS campaign as head of Central Command. While rooted in the counterterrorism realm earlier in his career, he has a broader perspective on what the different special operations tribes bring to the fight.

The Daily Beast

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  • James Andrews says:

    Because our Special Forces are the best in the world!

  • Bill keuthan says:

    All it will take is a real American president!
    Nothing will happen until this “P.O.S.” Is jettisoned!

  • larry stoner says:

    The U.S. cannot beat ISIS; we are fighting as if we have one arm tied behind us. We lost Vietnam for the same reason, we are trying to be too politically correct, and our soldiers are restricted. We need powerful leaders, i.e., President Truman and General MacArthur

  • Teresa Dickens says:

    We are good at what they are trained to do.

  • Bruce says:

    Man power, training, organization,and when we get the Odorous bo out of office and a real conservative republican as comander in chief

  • John Cavallaro says:

    We do not have any choices but to kill these crazy people!

  • Bill Sutton says:

    We need to destroy ISIS and their leadership.

  • Daren D. Theige says:

    I do not want my wasted on fighting Isis. They have no importance to me whatsoever. Let’s just get the Hell out of Iraq entirely, we never had any business or any right to go there in the first place!!!!!

  • jeff musselman says:

    They don’t have the training our Spec. Ops. personnel receive.

  • Angelgirl says:

    Good going special ops!! We need to let them ALL know that we won’t tolerate change in our country nor tolerate Shariah, murder of non-Muslims nor rape of women and children! Islam is a religion from hell!

  • milton farris says:

    I was a pilot supporting the 5th in Nam. These guys were and always will be unbeatable. They will kick ISIS’ ass.

  • sue porter says:

    Nothing like an American trying to keep our freedom.

  • Name says:

    Hope and pray. All negative gone only positive for ever

  • Jeanne Stotler says:

    If they are not held back, they are the best

  • pasquale ruiu says:

    i think that Obama is doing the right job,it is long time that any terrorist atacs by isis from outside the usa as been acurred .the san Bernardino was created and organized in the usa. was nothing that nobody could stopped ,the criticism are just political motivated by stupid people special republican, I like to remember that 9/11 was under bush presidential republican stupidity .

  • John vanney says:

    Because we have a long memory. We will get them. It may take awhile.

  • Bush Whacker says:

    In order to rid oneself of a nest of cockroaches or termites, the nest must be compromised with a rogue infiltrator. Our wonderful spec-ops personel as well as black-ops hired mercineries are professionals at this practice. They should be left alone to do their job and SHOULD NOT BE overly publicized until it is over and
    done. Give them a break and quit trying to be the town cryer making announcements and totally blowing their cover — unless, of course you don’t want them to succeed. Wake up, media people ! You’re being a big pain in the ass !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jeff says:

    Obama has Muslim Brotherhood spies in high Government position that will tell ISIS operatives when and where to kill off our special forces. Besides the real battle is going to be here in the US. Obama is building a Guerrilla army here to kill us.

  • cindy says:

    Because we have the best trained special ops in the world.

  • Cecile Maddry says:

    They can’t match the cunning and knowledge of the US military.

  • Bob Loblaw says:

    What a crock of propaganda.
    ISIS is primarily an IDEA, followers of this idea are amorphous and variable. Like a Hydra, cutting off a head will only grow 9 more to replace it. ISIS started with roughly 30K fighters, and now consists of 30K fighters, fighters who cannot overrun terrain a toyota pickup truck cannot overcome.

    This entire idea of fighting terrorism with the military is futile as it is asinine.

    Saudi Arabia, the alleged ally in this war on terror are funding and arming ISIS, Turkey who hates the Kurds and see the Shia as a threat naturally help the Saudis foster ISIS. American propaganda puts a white hat firmly on their heads while they funnel money and weapons into Syria and Iraq.

    Yes, the US military is capable of taking land and destroying opposition, but those days of massive buildups, armor and ordnance are basically over unless neocons fantasy of a Asian invasion come to light. Islamic terror can never be destroyed with ordnance and bullets, all it will do is spread the idea even more while fanning the flames of extremism. This will get our boys killed in service to industry profits and geopolitical control of the big banksters.

  • Randy Camper says:

    ISIS lacks the degree of training and sophisticated technology available to our Special Forces operatives. ((Certainly there are several other countries that have similar forces.))

  • Robert Ross says:

    Americas Delta Force & Navy Seals along with our Army Rangers are the Best of the Best. I would put them up against any Military force in the World. But only if they got rid of their Commander in Chief in Washington. God Bless America.

  • Marvin Parker says:

    They have no idea what they are up against. The people alone will distroy them without the use of the military.Besides this is GOD’s country there’s no way they can win.

  • SSG Dennis J. Stankewich -Retired says:

    We are the best, trained, equipped, learned, etc. We don’t kill women & children by cutting their heads off. We see this as murder and “you will be hunted down and killed”. Maybe we should use “pigs blood” dipped bullets and when terrorists are killed cut their heads off so they can’t go to Allah. Then pour “pigs blood” on the body and burn it. Need help in doing this, call me and I can organize retired and disabled veterans that would jump at the chance, to avenge these pieces of shit called ISIS.

  • rick says:

    retired 7thSFG U.S.

  • Joe Silva says:

    The pedigree of training our US forces receive is unmatched. The field commanders that led our soldiers through two wars in the Gulf region have a wealth of knowledge to pass on to our current forces. A level of expertise ISIS will never see.

  • T. Floyd Worthy says:

    ISIS is doomed. FEAR is a major reason for ISIS success. US Forces FEAR no one and nothing and will “kill ’em all and let God ( not allah ) sort ’em out”! Don’t forget the B-52s!

  • Steve says:

    Because killing will only create martyrs for recruiting more of them. Ask the Special Forces sent to Vietnam.

  • Steve says:

    If the special troops are allowed to do their job, ISIS will be WASWAS. Keep bo out of the campaign and we will win sooner than later!



  • Geri Pollard says:

    Because no one can beat our special forces if they are allowed to do their job as they were trained to without the foolish ROE putting their own lives in more danger than they are in already.

  • Barbara says:

    The only way the could beat the US troops is by our sitting President cutting further back the number of our fighting people. And if he still holds the reins of tying back their is possible. Hopefully, the troops will negate his orders and proceed to win.

  • michael furman says:

    its simple, we are the power

  • paul says:

    The only way ISIS can defeat the US is if the US government continues with current strategies. You fight terrorist with terror ! They believe their body is the bridge to Allah arrange the meeting, but blow the bridge before they get there ! Remove the ROE’s Unleash the Dog’s of War ! The War will be over one way or the other, our way ! It will send a message to the rest of the world that the US is not going to recess cause we are thru playing !

  • cary says:

    Our Special Forces go through a great deal of training while the ISIS has little training in comparison.

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