TIME Syria

Coalition Air Strikes Have Killed More Than 500 Militants Across Syria

Smoke and dust rise over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc
Smoke and dust rise over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike on October 22, 2014. Kai Pfaffenbach —Reuters

Monitors say that dozens of civilians have also been killed by the aerial onslaught

The U.S.-led air campaign to degrade and destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has killed more than 500 Islamic militants as well as dozens of civilians throughout Syria, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday.

The Observatory claims in a new report that the coalition’s air offensive had killed 464 ISIS troops, in addition to 57 fighters allied with the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front. At least, 32 civilians have also been killed since the offensive commenced in early September, the report said.

However, analysts say that the air strikes have only eliminated a fraction of ISIS’s troops on the ground. On Thursday, Charles Lister, a Syria expert and visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, remarked on Twitter that the coalition’s aerial offensive in Syria had killed just 1.47% of ISIS’s estimated manpower, based on data supplied by the Syrian Observatory and the CIA.

A majority of the coalition strikes have targeted ISIS forces massed in and around the embattled city of Kobani in northern Syria. Besieged Kurdish militia forces have battled the Sunni extremist group for more than a month near the Turkish border and are believed to have regained momentum on the contested battlefield thanks largely to the air strikes.

Earlier in the week, U.S. C-130 cargo planes dropped light weapons, ammunition and medical supplies to the Kurdish militia forces in Kobani. However, one of the 28 bundles reportedly fell into the hands of the enemy. The Pentagon was quick to dismiss the error as inconsequential.

“One bundle worth of equipment is not enough equipment to give the enemy any type of advantage at all,” Army Colonel Steve Warren told reporters in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. “It’s a relatively small amount of supplies. This is stuff [ISIS] already has.”

In northern Iraq on Wednesday, the semiautonomous Kurdish parliament passed a resolution to send peshmerga troops to fight alongside their fellow Kurdish fighters in Kobani, following Turkey’s decision earlier this week to allow reinforcements to cross the border into the besieged enclave.

TIME Military

U.S. Military Action Against ISIS Deemed ‘Operation Inherent Resolve’

US Department of Defense (DOD) shows an aircraft launching from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Arabian Gulf on Oct. 13, 2014.
US Department of Defense (DOD) shows an aircraft launching from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Arabian Gulf on Oct. 13, 2014. Joshua Card—EPA

Pentagon chose the name to "reflect the unwavering resolve and deep commitment of the U.S."

The operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria was finally given a name on Wednesday. U.S. Central Command has deemed the U.S. military actions against Islamist terrorists in Iraq and Syria “Operation Inherent Resolve.

According to the Department of Defense, the name is “intended to reflect the unwavering resolve and deep commitment of the U.S. and partner nations in the region and around the globe to eliminate the terrorist group ISIL and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community.”

Since strikes began on Aug. 8, the operation has gone without a name, but the Pentagon announced Wednesday all actions against ISIS since that time will be considered a part of Operation Inherent Resolve.

And yet, military officials seemingly weren’t always in favor of the operation’s new moniker. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier in October that the name had been rejected by military officials, who said the name wasn’t the right fit for the effort. One unnamed officer was quoted as saying, “It is just kind of bleh.”

TIME ebola

U.S. May Send Up to 4,000 Troops to Liberia to Help Contain Ebola

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington on Sept. 23, 2014.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington on Sept. 23, 2014. Bao Dandan—Xinhua Press/Corbis

Obama had previously announced a commitment of 3,000 troops

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has approved 4,000 troops for potential deployment to Liberia to help fight the spread of the deadly Ebola outbreak, the Pentagon announced Friday. President Barack Obama had previously announced a commitment of 3,000 troops.

“As we continue our support to the broader U.S. government response to the Ebola crisis, I want to emphasize that our operations remain focused on four lines of effort: command and control, logistics support, training, and engineering support,” said Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby at a press conference.

While 4,000 troops have been approved, the number that will actually be deployed to West Africa remains unclear. There are currently just over 200 troops working to fight Ebola in the region.

“I want to make one thing real clear, that that’s a potential deployment. That doesn’t mean it is going to get to that number,” Kirby said.

The United States has already made deep financial commitments to help thwart the Ebola outbreak, committing $500 million to a global effort that the World Health Organization estimated that would cost $1 billion. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged an additional $50 million toward both immediate treatment and long-term research into the disease, which has claimed more than 3,000 lives in West Africa.

TIME Pentagon

The Pentagon Doesn’t Know What to Call Its Operation Against ISIS

Lt. General William Mayville Jr. Briefs The Media At Pentagon On Recent Strikes Against ISIL In Syria
Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr. speaks about the Syrian bombing campaign September 23, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Operation Inherent Resolve was deemed “just kind of bleh” by one military officer

After two months of military operations against or related to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the Pentagon still doesn’t known what, exactly, to call the mission.

Top military brass is still trying to find a fitting name for the operation as classified Pentagon PowerPoint slides tentatively call “Operations in Iraq and Syria,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Officials rejected the latest name nomination, “Operation Inherent Resolve.”

“It is just kind of bleh,” said one officer.

The ISIS mission name search is in keeping with an operations nicknaming tradition extending back in the U.S. to World War II. The 1989 invasion of Panama added another layer to the military mission naming question after officials realized the propaganda value of a name; that mission was called “Operation Blue Spoon” until it was renamed “Operation Just Cause.”

[WSJ]

TIME Syria

U.S. and Allies Launch New Strikes Targeting ISIS Oil Fields

President Obama Delivers Statement On Recent Airstrikes Against ISIS In Syria
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement on the recent air strikes against ISIS on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 23, 2014 Win McNamee—Getty Images

The Pentagon says the targets included oil refineries that produce about 300 to 500 barrels of petroleum per day

The U.S. and partner forces launched additional strikes in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) on Wednesday, the Pentagon said. Forces from the U.S., Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates reportedly launched 13 air strikes against 12 oil refineries controlled by the Islamist group.

“We are still assessing the outcome of the attack on the refineries, but have initial indications that the strikes were successful,” U.S. Central Command said Wednesday. “Producing between 300-500 barrels of refined petroleum per day, [ISIS] is estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day from these refineries. The destruction and degradation of these targets further limits [ISIS's] ability to lead, control, project power and conduct operations.”

The strikes are a part of the U.S.’s ongoing effort to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for beheading two American journalists and one British aid worker, among other Western casualties. During a speech at the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, President Barack Obama called on more American allies to join in the fight to “dismantle this network of death.”

TIME Ukraine

Ukraine Grants Amnesty and More Autonomy to Separatist Regions

Ukraine
People dressed in old Soviet uniforms attend a parade in the town of Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, on Sept. 14, 2014 Darko Vojinovic — AP

Rebel areas will be given "special status" for at least three years

As Ukrainians celebrated the passage of an agreement to deepen ties with the European Union on Tuesday, the country’s parliament approved legislation giving greater political autonomy to pro-Moscow regions in the country’s east.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko claimed the move would protect the “sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence” of Ukraine following the signing of a tenuous cease-fire earlier this month that has largely quelled most, but not all, of the fighting in the country.

In accordance with the new law, rebel-held territory in Donetsk and Luhansk will receive “special status” for at least a three-year period, granting wider political autonomy from Kiev.

Also on Tuesday, the legislature pushed through a bill offering sweeping amnesty to rebels in the Donbass region; however, the legislation exempts individuals who may have participated grave crimes, such as the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, according to Voice of America.

Pro-Moscow separatists, who have been fighting a five-month insurgency against Kiev that has killed at least 3,000 people, remained wary of the resolutions.

“We will translate [the autonomy bill] into Russian, study it and give our opinion,” Alexander Zakharchenko, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told pro-Kremlin news outlet RIA Novosti.

Zakharchenko’s deputy voiced even harsher skepticism.

“This is nonsense when the [parliament] of Ukraine passes bills not for Ukraine, but for Donbass,” said Andrei Purgin. “We have our own parliament for this purpose.”

Meanwhile in Washington, officials at the Pentagon said large numbers of Russian troops had begun to move back across the border, but remain poised to keep pressure firmly on Kiev.

“Those forces are close enough to be quickly brought back to bear if required,” General Philip Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command, told reporters in Washington.

TIME intelligence

CIA Says ISIS Ranks May Have Tripled

ISIS Mosul Iraq Islamic State
Demonstrators chant pro-Islamic State group slogans as they carry the group's flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, Iraq on June 16, 2014. AP

Foreign fighters, including Americans, appear to be pouring into Syria to support the terrorist group

The number of combatants fighting under the banner of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) could be three times larger than intelligence officials previously believed, according to a new estimate from the Central Intelligence Agency.

The CIA estimates that ISIS, the Islamist terrorist group that has declared a caliphate in the large swath of Iraq and Syria which it now controls, “can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria, based on a new review of all-source intelligence reports from May to August, an increase from our previous assessment of at least 10,000 fighters,” a CIA spokesperson said. That estimate accounts only for individuals fighting with ISIS itself, not with any affiliated group.

The new estimate reflects a sharp uptick in recruitment over the summer “following battlefield successes and the declaration of a caliphate,” the CIA spokesperson said.

The CIA believes more than 15,000 foreign fighters from 80 countries—at least 2,000 of whom are Westerners—have traveled to Syria to join ISIS ranks. A dozen or more could be Americans, the CIA believes.

A U.S. intelligence official cautioned that the CIA’s estimate is not a precise figure and reflects a broad approximation based on limited intelligence. “The gap between the low and high points indicates there is uncertainty about the exact number of fighters in (ISIS),” a US intelligence official said. “Given the changing dynamics of the battlefield, new recruits, and other factors, it is difficult to assess the precise number of individuals in a terrorist group that is evolving and practices good operational security.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 5

1. Our nation’s racial divide starts early: America’s public schools are still highly segregated.

By Reed Jordan at the Urban Institute

2. The Pentagon is getting bad advice about responsibly managing its budget and our national defense.

By Nora Bensahel in Defense One

3. “We need to step up our game to make sure that Putin’s rules do not govern the 21st century.”

By Madeleine Albright in Foreign Policy

4. Over a lifetime, and despite the high cost of tuition, a college education is still a great deal.

By Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

5. Reality television – MTV’s “Teen Mom” and “16 and Pregnant” – triggered a plunge in the teen birthrate.

By Phil Schneider in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 28

1. New Orleans is at the heart of a new HIV epidemic, and only massive health system reform can remedy the situation.

By Jessica Wapner in Aeon

2. From dismantling Syria’s chemical arsenal to hunting down Joseph Kony, America’s military missions abroad far outlast the public’s attention span.

By Kate Brannen in Foreign Policy

3. To look beyond stereotypes and understand the programs and interventions that improve life for young men of color, the U.S. Department of Education invited them to a “Data Jam.”

By Charley Locke in EdSurge

4. Taking a page from silicon valley, incubators for restaurateurs can help get new ideas on the plate.

By Allison Aubrey at National Public Radio

5. So the homeless can work, worship, and transition to normal life, cities should offer safe, flexible storage options.

By Kriston Capps in Citylab

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Military

U.S. Launched Operation to Rescue ISIS Hostages, Pentagon Says

Journalist James Foley covers the civil war in Aleppo, Syria, in November 2012.
Journalist James Foley covers the civil war in Aleppo, Syria, in November 2012. Nicole Tung—AP

No hostages were found at the target location

The United States launched a rescue operation this summer to free American hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the Department of Defense said Wednesday, but no hostages were found at the target location.

In a statement released a day after the Sunni extremist group released a graphic video showing the execution of American journalist James Foley, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. Kirby confirmed that American air and ground forces attempted a rescue to free a number of American hostages held by militants in Syria.

A U.S. government official confirmed Wednesday night that Foley was among the Americans the military attempted to rescue.

“This operation involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within [ISIS]. Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location,” Kirby said. “As we have said repeatedly, the United States government is committed to the safety and well-being of its citizens, particularly those suffering in captivity. In this case, we put the best of the United States military in harms’ way to try and bring our citizens home.”

Lisa Monaco, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, said Obama authorized the operation “because it was the national security team’s assessment that these hostages were in danger with each passing day in [ISIS] custody.”

The ground portion of the operation was carried out by U.S. special forces operators. Monaco said the government wouldn’t go into detail on the operation to protect “operational capabilities.”

“The United States government uses the full breadth of our military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities to bring people home whenever we can,” Kirby said. “The United States will not tolerate the abduction of our people, and will work tirelessly to secure the safety of our citizens and to hold their captors accountable.”

In a statement to reporters Wednesday, Obama referenced the Americans still being held by ISIS. “We keep in our prayers those other Americans who are separated from their families. We will do everything that we can to protect our people and the timeless values that we stand for. “

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