Deir Az Zor, Syria (TFC)— A Syrian village was recently subjected to a rather bloody raid by US special operations. After killing dozens of ISIS fighters, operatives detained and disappeared several reputed militants. It continues a breadcrumb trail of raids, abductions, and killings coming to embody America’s dark wars.
Nestled in Syria’s east, Deir Az Zor is a frighteningly contested area for coalition, government, and rebel forces. Humanitarian watchdog groups have long expressed deep anxieties over the fate of its thousands of trapped civilians. Such fears recently sprouted reports of Islamic State militants using civilians as human shields.
Media was alerted to this latest raid by The Syrian Observatory for Humanitarian Rights, Al Jazeera reports. Through a sophisticated ground network, SOHR relays many instances of battle and violence in the embattled country.
According to sources, around 25 fighters ISIS were slain by US operatives in the village of al-Kubar. Reports indicate a 90-minute battle ensued, wherein unidentified American forces dropped in from “four helicopters.” These boots were allegedly backed by coalition jets, while it’s unclear if indigenous forces were involved.
Operatives reputedly disappeared with prisoners and the bodies of dead militants. Another outlet specializing in regional news–Deirezzor 24–reported “several foreign forces, including Arab ones”, also participated. It’s unknown who exactly these entities were.
This single leaked raid is just one of countless counterparts erupting across Syria. It’s a cryptic atmosphere enjoyed by US special operations, cloaking what’s really ground-side. For months, Washington insisted its boots were advisors, trainers, and observers. This narrative has been tested, and further eroded, with each reported firefight or night raid.
Normally, it’s safe enough to assume such raids are the work of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). The shadowy unit has been responsible for conducting high-profile kill-capture raids worldwide since the 80’s. While being investigated by renowned journalist Jeremy Scahill, JSOC disclosed itself via the Osama Bin Laden raid. Since then, the president’s personal force has essentially been allowed operational impunity.
That being said, assumption and fact are two different things. It is, of course, completely unknown what military unit conducted this operation. US special operations is a world populated by silent professionals, in a thickly redacted work. Establishing any solid facts, short of having inside contact, is uniformly difficult for outsiders.
What’s more, the extreme secrecy of these operations routinely brings one question to mind. That being: “who were the dead, and why did they have to die?” Clandestine objectives are just that, unknowable tales from the dark side of American warfare.
Those same questions haunt the deaths of operators, special forces, marines, and CIA paramilitary instructors killed since 2014. And with so few journalists remaining in Syria, it’s difficult to say with certainty what lurks beyond the bomb craters. Especially when the sun goes down.
This post by Isiah Holmes originally ran on The Fifth Column.