The West Launches a New Covert War on the Islamic State
Now that nearly two years of US-led coalition air strikes have obviously failed to root the Islamic State out of Syria or Iraq, the West has resorted to a secret war. We hear more and more now about instances of Special Operations units bound for covert missions in both those countries, as well as Libya.
The US Army’s elite Delta Force’s counterterrorism unit was revealed on March 1 to be present in Iraq on undercover missions to capture or kill senior ISIS figures, set up a network of informants and gather intelligence ready for a new operations outfit to go into action at a handful of locations.
Earlier, on February 26, France’s Le Monde reported that special forces of the French DGSE intelligence agency’s military unit were “engaged in covert operations against the Islamic State militias in Libya alongside the US and UK “and that “three British special forces operatives were injured in a firefight with ISIS militants in Iraq during a reconnaissance operation near ISIS-held Mosul”
According to other reports, large numbers of British troops are operating under cover near or inside the Libyan cities of Benghazi, Misrata and Tripoli.
DEBKA Weekly’s counterterrorism sources find a connection between the reports of the covert war embarked on by the West and the disclosure by ISIS on Feb. 27 that eight Dutch jihadist fighters were executed in Syrian Raqqa, accused of desertion and mutiny against “ISIS intelligence agents from Iraq.”
The Islamic State’s intelligence branch, which consists entirely of former Iraqi intelligence agents, strongly suspects Western spy agencies of planting informers and double agents among the European and North American Muslims streaming to Syria to join ISIS.
The group of 75 from Holland aroused special interest, say our sources, because the Dutch MIVD has successfully penetrated other terrorist groups in Europe and the Middle East and maintains very close ties with the CIA and the Israeli Mossad.
So far, in the view of our intelligence experts, the clandestine war conducted by the West has only touched on the fringes of ISIS’s logistical network and parts of its support system, but not yet reached the organization’s operational or intelligence core.
Even that limited success was only possible because the jihadists’ financial transfers, oil sales and arms purchases entailed unavoidable contacts with outsiders.
The operatives captured were therefore mostly external agents rather than combat operatives.
This state of play is a rerun of the Western intelligence agencies’ earlier experiences with Al Qaeda in the past 13 years since 9/11.
In 2003, the CIA captured the high-profile Al Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Pakistan. He was indeed very close to Osama bin Laden, but turned out to have been engaged in logistical affairs such as recruiting volunteers and setting up training camps. Even in the face of every interrogative device, Mohammed was unable to yield up operational data or information on terror attacks Al Qaeda was planning.
Better results about ISIS’s plans might be accessible if a Western spy service could lay hands on one of the jihadist group’s “mobile team.” This is a highly select group of 20 or 25 confidential couriers who carry top-secret orders from ISIS commanders to field units and secret cells.
They are constantly on the move between Libya, Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. These couriers are privy to the secret identities of the high-ups who issued the orders and their recipients. They therefore hold in their hands the entire chain of command in the ISIS hierarchy.