Report: Pentagon to conduct surveillance flights over Syria

Getty Images

The Pentagon is moving to send surveillance aircraft, including drones, into Syrian airspace to gather intelligence on the terrorist group, Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, according to the Wall Street Journal

"The Pentagon is preparing to conduct reconnaissance flights over Syria," a senior U.S. official told the Journal. "There is no decision yet to do strikes, but in order to help make that decision, you want to get as much situational awareness as possible."

ADVERTISEMENT
Officials said they could start flying missions over eastern Syria shortly. Those missions could lay the groundwork for a possible expansion of U.S. strikes into Syria.

Earlier this month, President Obama authorized airstrikes in Iraq to target ISIS, which threatened to capture the Kurdish capital city of Erbil. Many lawmakers, though, have pressed the administration to expand those strikes to target the group in Syria, where ISIS has a stronger foothold.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Monday said that Obama has not made any decision on U.S. airstrikes in Syria.

Officials told the Journal that Syrian air-defense systems in the east of the country likely won't pose a threat to U.S. aircraft. The Syrian air sensors are either sparsely located or inoperable.

Any U.S. drone flights would be entering Syrian airspace without authorization from the regime of Bashar Assad, who has been fighting ISIS and more pro-Western rebel groups.

The information gathered by the flights would add to intelligence provided by satellites and other sources, the officials added. 

The U.S. has conducted at least some secret flights with drones and manned aircraft inside Syrian airspace in the past, they said.

In July, special forces conducted a raid to try to rescue a group of American hostages in Syria, including journalist James Foley, but were unsuccessful. ISIS last week released a videotape of Foley’s beheading.

More in Defense

Report: Two hostage rescues fail in Syria

Read more »