On Wednesday, the White House leaked a classified special forces operation to rescue American hostages in Syria. The reason: political cover. The cost: so far, unknown.
But this much, we know: The politicized leak of this operation cut through the fog of war to let our enemies know exactly what happened that day in the desert, and because of that, future attempts to free American hostages will be more difficult to plan, farther between, and more dangerous to carry out.
On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby confirmed reports of the U.S. military’s failed clandestine hostage rescue operation in Syria. The operation was designed to rescue a number of Western hostages, including American journalist James Foley, that were being held by Islamic State terrorists in Syria. Details of the failed raid were leaked by senior White House officials earlier that day after the Obama administration came under intense scrutiny about what actions it had taken to free Foley following, who was beheaded . The leak was designed to provide political cover for President Barack Obama, who has been taking fire from the press for failing to take more decisive action against the Islamic State in either Iraq or Syria.
The operation involved an extremely large number of U.S. special operations forces moving over long distances. It has been described as the largest U.S. hostage rescue operation undertaken since the famed raid on the Son Tay prison camp in Vietnam – meaning it was larger in scope than the mission to free the U.S. hostages being held at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1980.
Unfortunately, the parallels between this operation and the Son Tay raid did not stop at the size and scope of the mission: Just as in Son Tay, the hostage rescue force arrived only to find that the hostages were not there.
When the hostage rescue force arrived at the target location in Syria, they encountered a handful of fighters on the ground, which they quickly neutralized. As has been previously reported, one U.S. helicopter pilot transporting the rescue force suffered a gunshot wound during the operation. He completed the entire mission before informing anyone that he had been shot. It was an act of heroism that would have gone unknown before yesterday’s leak.
Following the mission, it was determined that the Islamic State did not know that it was the United States that had conducted the raid. This was confirmed Wednesday by media outlets, who quoted the leaker saying the “[Islamic State] did not know who they were fighting that night, and we assess Syria did not know.”
As such, the decision was made to maintain absolute secrecy in the event that hostages could be located again, and another rescue operation could be undertaken. After Wednesday’s leak by the White House, this seems highly unlikely. The Islamic State is now aware that the United States is tracking the whereabouts of the Western hostages, and that the U.S. has shown a willingness to take military action to free them. They will likely increase their operational and communication security postures in order to prevent a repeat operation. (MILLER: The Facts Are In, And Obama’s Policy Is A Direct Danger To The United States)
Wednesday’s selfish, politically motivated leak has reduced the chances for a successful second rescue attempt, and has likely increased the risk to the lives of the hostages still in the Islamic State’s possession. For that, someone should be fired.