DAMASCUS – The coalition that attacked ISIS in Syria overnight “makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone”, United States’ President Barack Obama said today.
Noting that he had “made clear that America would act as part of a broad coalition”, the president declared at the White House: “That’s exactly what we’ve done.”
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Qatar all participated in the operation, the American military said. Bahrain, Jordan, and the UAE all said they took part in the air strikes. Saudi Arabia did as well, the American military said, and Qatar played a supporting role.
“The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone,” Obama said at the White House. “Above all, the people and governments in the Middle East are rejecting ISIL and standing up for the peace and security that the people of the region and the world deserve.”
Also last night, the United States took action – on its own – against another terrorist organization, the Khorasan Group. Obama described its members as “seasoned al Qaeda operatives in Syria”.
American officials said the group was plotting attacks against the United States and other Western targets.
The plots against the United States were discovered by the intelligence community in the past week, an intelligence source with knowledge of the matter told CNN. The source did not say what the target may have been, but said the plot involved a bomb made of a nonmetallic device, toothpaste container, and clothes dipped in explosive material.
A plot involving concealed bombs on planes “was just one option they were looking at”, a United States official said.
“Once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people,” Obama said.
There is bipartisan support in Congress for American military actions, Obama said, adding that “America is always stronger when we stand united. And that unity sends a powerful message to the world that we will do what’s necessary to defend our country”.
The strikes were “very successful”, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said today.
While the military can’t comment in detail about future plans, the strikes “were only the beginning”, Kirby added.
The strikes came in three waves, with coalition partners participating in the latter two, Army Lieutenant General William Mayville Jr said today. The first wave, which mostly targeted the Khorasan Group, started at 3:30 a.m. (8:30 p.m. ET Monday) and involved American ships firing missiles into eastern and northern Syria.
The second wave, 30 minutes later, involved planes striking northern Syria, with targets including ISIS headquarters, training camps and combat vehicles. The third wave, begun shortly after 7 a.m., involved planes targeting ISIS training camps and combat vehicles in eastern Syria, Mayville said.
It’s too early to say what effect the American strikes had against the Khorasan Group, Mayville said.
The strikes marked the first time the United States used F-22 Raptor stealth aircraft in a combat role. The military has previously run into problems with the aircraft. The air strikes against ISIS focused on the city of Raqqa, the declared capital of ISIS’ self-proclaimed Islamic State. But other areas were hit as well.
The operation began with a flurry of Tomahawk missiles launched from the sea, followed by attacks from bomber and fighter aircraft, a senior Unite States military official told CNN. The goal: taking out ISIS’ ability to command, train and resupply its militants.