An 26-year-old female American aid worker who the U.S. government believes was alive as recently as two weeks ago, would be next ISIS victims.
“Some Facts About American ISIS’s Hostage *** Female aid worker, 26, has been held by militants since August 2013 ***ISIS has demanded a $6million ransom and release of prisoners ***US female hostage’s name is being kept secret for security reasons unless White House chief of staff Denis McDonough revealed the first name of a 26-year-old American woman kidnapped by ISIS in August 2013, whose identity has been kept secret for safety reasons”
The brutal killing of a Jordanian pilot means that military force may be the only way of freeing captives in Syria — including a 26-year-old American aid worker, Foreign Policy reports.
Barack Obama’s administration has been bitterly divided for months about if, or how, to negotiate with the ISIS who has held hostages from the United States, Britain, Japan, and an array of other countries. European countries like France and Germany were able to effectively buy the lives of their captives by allegedly paying the group multimillion-dollar ransoms.
The Jordanian government, meanwhile, set a new precedent this week by publicly agreeing to the ISIS’s demands that it release a female terrorist from the country’s death row as part of a hostage trade.
The bloody failure of Amman’s attempts to bargain with the ISIS means that the United States may have no real options, short of military force, for winning the release of the aid worker, whom Foreign Policy has refused to identify at the request of her family.
The militants haven’t shown any willingness to seriously negotiate ransom terms for American hostages — its initial demand for American journalist James Foley was a sky-high $132.5 million — and they have also now rebuffed the one government willing to openly bargain with the group.
The ISIS could choose to release her as an act of mercy, in part to deflect the widespread outrage sparked by the pilot’s murder, and it’s possible that an intermediary like Qatar could help broker an agreement with the group.
Neither seems particularly likely, however, and no talks are known to be taking place.
That effectively leaves the woman’s fate in the hands of the U.S. military’s most elite special operations forces, which would be charged with finding her and then mounting a high-risk mission to bring her back.
A former officer with the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) said that, even with fully accurate intelligence on the woman’s location, a rescue mission’s chance of success would be “less than 50 percent.”
“It’s possible that an intermediary like Qatar could help broker an agreement with the group to free American hostage.”
Pulling off a rescue mission would be fiendishly difficult. A JSOC task force spearheaded by dozens of Delta Force operators mounted a risky operation near Raqqa, Syria, in the early hours of July 3, 2014, to try to rescue American hostages Foley and Steven Sotloff. The team had trained for weeks, and the raid went off without a hitch. By the time the operators reached the target, however, the hostages were gone. Some U.S. officials believe the men may have been moved less than 72 hours before the failed raid. Both Foley and Sotloff were later beheaded.
As that failure indicates, the success of any rescue mission requires exquisitely accurate intelligence on the hostage’s location, which the United States does not appear to have in the case of the ISIS’s hostages.
After the release of the video that showed the terrorist group killing Kasasbeh by burning him alive, the Defense Department’s press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, told reporters on Feb. 3 that the United States had worked with Jordan to locate Kasasbeh, without success.
However, the United States has apparently received some recent information about the American woman still being held hostage.
“The intelligence official said it’s believed that the ISIS now holds fewer than 20 hostages from around the world.”
senior U.S. intelligence official said there was a specific reason as recently as two weeks ago to believe that she was still alive.
The official refused to say the reason, but said the issue of how to secure her release has been the topic of intense discussions within the Obama administration in recent days.
Among the options, the intelligence official said, is a military raid similar to the one last July that was too late to rescue the two hostages, who had been moved by the time the helicopters bearing Delta operators arrived.
“The intelligence official said it’s believed that the ISIS now holds fewer than 20 hostages from around the world”
But the administration is divided on whether the families of hostages should have a say beforehand about, or even the ability to veto, a military rescue mission. Chastened by another failed JSOC rescue attempt — a December mission in Yemen, during which al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula killed American photojournalist Luke Somers and South African teacher Pierre Korkie as JSOC operators closed in — U.S. officials have been hesitant to try again in Syria, where the American woman is believed to be held, the official said.
The intelligence official said it’s believed that the ISIS now holds fewer than 20 hostages from around the world. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the internal discussions.
In the Iraq War, if JSOC received intelligence on a target, “we probably had been there, we knew all about it, we had people in there, we had foundational logic … and could launch these things at a moment’s notice,” the former JSOC officer said. “It was a battle drill.”
Syria, he said, is a different situation entirely. “If you go into Syria, one, you’ve got to worry about the Syrians,” he said. “Then you’ve got to worry about ISIS and deal with them. And we don’t have anybody on the ground, so everything’s got to be from the air.”
The former JSOC officer suggested that the best hope for success in such a mission might be to have operators conduct a night free-fall parachute jump into a drop zone that was offset from the target building and have them move stealthily to the assault while holding the helicopters that would be used to fly the force back out of Syria as far from the target as possible until the last possible moment. “As soon as the aircraft cross the border, everyone’s tweeting, ‘Here they come,’” he said. “So the information age has killed cross-border helo ops,” he said.
Even stealthy helicopters such as those that conducted the raid into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden are no guarantee against this 21st-century dynamic, he said. “The stealth is for the radar,” he said. “You can still hear the helicopters.”
The Jordanian pilot’s fate thus portends an ill future for the remaining American hostage, the former officer said. “It’s bad news for her,” he said. “It’s not if, it’s when.”