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Al Qaeda veterans in Syria were “in the final stages of plans to execute major attacks against Western targets and potentially the U.S. homeland,” a Pentagon official said Tuesday, explaining the move to mount U.S. airstrikes against militants known as the Khorasan group in addition to separate strikes on ISIS in Syria.
The Pentagon also suggested that the airstrikes against ISIS specifically were only the beginning of a fight that could take years. Lt. Gen. William Mayville, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said eight U.S. airstrikes went after Khorasan targets west of Aleppo, Syria's largest city, including training camps and an explosives and munitions production facility. Asked whether the Khorasan threat had been eliminated by those strikes, Mayville said that the Pentagon was still assessing the effects.
When asked about the length of the ISIS fight, Mayville said: “I would think of it in terms of years.” At the same briefing, a Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said of the anti-ISIS campaign: “Last night’s strikes were only the beginning.” Mayville said that it was too early to determine how ISIS had responded to the strikes, but he said that the organization is well-funded and “will adapt to what we’ve done.” He said that he was unaware of civilian casualties in the strikes. The United States acted alone in the Khorasan strikes. The ISIS strikes were carried out with the help of five Arab allies, but the U.S. conducted the vast majority of the strikes, Mayville said. He said that the Arab allies took part in the second and third of three waves of attacks, and that their contributions ranged from flying combat air patrols to executing airstrikes.
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