The US commando raid that took place behind IS lines in Al Amar in eastern Syria represents a new departure in US policy. Instead of putting tens of thousands of “boots on the ground” and making them a sitting target, the US used only a small number of special forces of the Delta Force that took out the head of the management of the IS oil industry, Abu Sayyaf, killed his bodyguards and captured his wife and returned with valuable intelligence, without losing a man. The intention was to capture Abu Sayyaf, but during the incursion he was killed in a fire fight. But, apparently his wife. was active in his operations, and the intelligence that was taken will enable the US to disrupt the oil sales of the IS that is bringing them large sums of money to fund their campaigns.
Such a raid establishes two things, first that the US is there and means business and second that all IS leaders must worry about their personal safety in future, that will certainly hinder their ability to act. This may be the strategy in future US military actions. Instead of the tendency to over-power with “shock-and-awe,” as the US military tends to do, they now know that after the big show, staying in place and controlling territory leaves the troops vulnerable to attack by irregulars and terrorists who use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to take out tanks and trucks, leading to a mounting casualty loss.
After the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the era of drones, that can give excellent intelligence and can also target individuals, the future pattern of US military actions, particularly in Syria, may be this kind of selective attack. In that way, huge vulnerable encampments of US soldiers are avoided, and in the sense that none of these so-called countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria) can ever be “pacified,” this is probably the best policy. The US must use its advantages, aerial reconnaissance, aerial attacks and commando strikes when necessary and when possible.
Nevertheless, the recent sudden fall of Ramadi to the IS forces and the inability of the Iraqi Army to defend this strategic city, capital of Anbar province and only 100 km from Baghdad, must make the US reconsider its position. The only force on the ground that can take on the IS forces are the Shia militias, that are both pro-Iranian and anti-American. No good choices there for the US.