Opinion

Pentagon Official: White House Foley Leak Endangers Future Operations, American Hostages

Joseph Miller
Contributor

Joseph Miller is the pen name for a ranking Department of Defense official with a background in U.S. special operations and combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has worked in strategic planning.

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.

I wish I was surprised by the decision to leak information that would endanger the lives of additional hostages in order to provide the administration with a few political points, but I am not. This is par for the course for an administration that is more concerned with domestic politics and opinion polling than they are with taking the actions necessary to safeguard American national security. (MILLER: Obama’s Afghanistan Fantasy Today Is America’s Nightmare Tomorrow)

As I have predicted for several months in pieces published here at The Daily Caller, the Islamic State has grown in size and strength, and has declared the creation of an Islamic caliphate under the governance of the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — who now goes by the name Caliph Ibrahim. The area currently under the control of the Islamic State includes large sections of territory in Iraq and Syria. It is the largest territory ever to be controlled by a terrorist organization. Every day, the area under the control of the Islamic State more closely resembles pre-9/11 Afghanistan. Every day the U.S. waits, the larger the commitment to destroy the Islamic State will be. The threat to the United States is real, as the Islamic State has both the intent and the capabilities to attack the U.S. homeland. (MILLER: An Islamic Caliphate Across Syria, Northern Iraq)

For three years, the Obama administration has sat idly by while the Islamic State grew in size and strength across the Iraqi border in neighboring Syria. In that time, Syria has become a failed state, which has allowed the Islamic State to thrive while 160,000 Syrians have been killed. Syria remains the heart of the problem. Iraq is just one of its symptoms. (MILLER: Iraq A Symptom Of Larger Obama Failure — Syria)