“A dedicated manhunt by the CIA, the National Security Agency and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command has been methodically finding and killing senior militants in Syria and Iraq, in one of the few clear success stories of the U.S. military campaign in those countries,” according to AP .
“The drone strikes — separate from the conventional bombing campaign run by U.S. Central Command — have significantly diminished the threat from the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaida cell in Syria that had planned attacks on American aviation, U.S. officials say. The group’s leader, Muhsin al-Fadhli, and its top bomb-maker, David Drugeon, were killed this past summer.”
“In an effort that ramped up over the last year, intelligence analysts and special operators have harnessed an array of satellites, sensors, drones and other technology to track and kill elusive militants across a vast, rugged area of Syria and Iraq, overcoming the lack of a significant U.S. ground presence and the awareness by U.S. targets that they can be found through their use of electronic devices. The strikes won’t defeat the Islamic State, but they are keeping its leadership off balance.”
“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… Even in a post-Edward Snowden era in which U.S. electronic spying is widely understood, al-Qaida and Islamic State operatives in Syria can’t avoid using electronics to communicate.”