The Obama’s administration’s first airstrikes in Syria were its most expansive against the extremist militants known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to date, bringing the U.S. deep into the country’s complex civil war overnight.
The attacks, which began late Monday, underlined the questions that have plagued deliberations about possible U.S. strikes in Syria from the start: How much will they actually hurt ISIS? And who inside Syria stands to gain?
The strikes also raised a new question, amid reports that an additional extremist group was also targeted: Who is America fighting in Syria?
U.S. warplanes have been bombarding ISIS for six weeks inside Iraq. But no single day has seen an onslaught like the one unleashed in the Syria strikes. The Pentagon said U.S. fighter jets and warships launched more than 20 missile attacks spanning several hours. Reuters cited an activist group that monitors the conflict as saying that the strikes had hit at least 50 targets. The sudden attacks were more aggressive and expansive than many had anticipated, given that for more than three years, the Obama administration has shown a deep reluctance to get involved in the conflict.