Rescuing Foley and Sotloff
A real, and clever, attempt was made to find and rescue the two American captives of ISIS in Syria. It is described by Nicholas Schmidle in the New Yorker.
The [FBI] agents hoped that the European former hostages could help them find these missing Americans. The agents listened as the former hostages relived their ordeals—recalling where they had been detained and how they had been treated by their captors. They both said that they had been two of several hostages being held at the same site. “It was very, very good intel,” a special-operations officer with intimate knowledge of subsequent events told me. One of the former hostages described a single-story building where he had been kept in Syria. He recounted what the special-operations officer called the “rhythms of a routine” at the site—daily “patterns” of the captors. Satellite surveillance then identified a site with similar activity; it was outside of Raqqa, a city in northern Syria, which ISIS has taken up as its ad-hoc capital. ...NewYorker
We may think of ISIS as a non-state aggressor. But it is deeply tied to Syria. Accordingly, the drones are busy in the Raqqa area. The Pentagon failed to save two hostages’ lives, but thanks to the raid it is a lot wiser about the home base of the enemy — where the crazies go when they go home.
The special-operations officer, who has extensive experience with special-mission units, said that he was generally wary of “hostage scenarios,” because “once you start chasing that merry-go-round, you’re never going to get off.” He listed other Americans who were thought to be held hostage by various groups around the world; though he was sympathetic to their plight, he didn’t believe that each one warranted a rescue attempt. The bid to free Foley and Sotloff was different: it had a double purpose, he said, “an ability to go get the hostages and also to send a message to ISIS.” (At least two other Americans involved in humanitarian work are being held by ISIS, according to the Washington Post. Last week, ISIS demanded a $6.6 million ransom for one.) After saying this, however, he observed that it might be a folly to treat members of ISIS as rational political actors: “They are lunatics.” …NewYorker