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with no regular American presence in the war theater, the U.S. has struggled to answer basic intelligence questions about the situation in Syria and Iraq, including the Islamic State group's fighting strength. And the overall U.S.-led bombing campaign has failed to dislodge the group from its self-declared caliphate across both countries. But one element is seen as a growing intelligence and military success: The combined effort by the CIA and the military's Joint Special Operations Command to find and kill "high value" targets from both al-Qaida and IS.
SOG operators raiding terrorist compound in iraq.
As in Pakistan and Yemen, missiles fired from unmanned drones have been the weapons of choice to kill high-value targets in Syria and Iraq. But unlike in Pakistan and Yemen, JSOC, not the CIA, has been pulling the trigger in Syria and Iraq, officials say. JSOC's armed drones operate separately from, but in concert with, a conventional bombing campaign run by U.S. Central Command, which has overall responsibility for the war. The CIA's Counter Terrorism Center brought its collection and analytical expertise to the hunt for senior militants in close cooperation with JSOC, officials say, with a new focus on achieving a hybrid model that has long been the Obama administration's goal. Although the CIA has carried out the vast majority of drone strikes during the Obama administration, the president has said he wants the military to become the chief instrument of targeted lethal force. In the latest strike on Sept. 10, the U.S. killed Abu Bakr al-Turkmani, an Islamic State administrative officer, near Tal Afar, Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. Abu Rahin Aziz, a British national, was killed in a drone strike in July. The successful strikes against militant leadership targets in Iraq and Syria show how the U.S. has upped its man-hunting capabilities in areas without an American embassy or troop presence, said Rep. Adam Schiff of California, senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. "In Syria it's taken a long time to build up our intelligence capabilities, but they are improving every day,
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