Sad news indeed, but not unexpected. The attacks in Brussels have taken the lives of at least two Americans, and that number may increase as more of the victims get identified. CBS’ affiliate in Chicago carried the story this morning:
The Washington Post heard the same news from its sources in the State Department:
At least two Americans were killed in the Brussels attacks that claimed at least 31 lives, a U.S. official said Friday as Secretary of State John F. Kerry said made a somber visit to the heart of the European Union that was struck by Islamic State violence earlier this week.
Kerry gave no further detail about the identities or the number of the Americans who were killed. The U.S. official said that two Americans had been confirmed dead so far, and that there could be more. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive findings. …
At least four Americans are known to have been missing. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said earlier this week that the U.S. Embassy was still working to account for all of its staff members in Belgium.
“We will not rest until we have eliminated your nihilistic beliefs and cowardice from the face of the Earth,” Kerry said, directing his remarks against Islamic State-connected attackers who have struck around the world.
Let’s hope so. In order to fulfill that promise, though, we have to adopt a broader strategy that actually aims at destroying ISIS and leaving them no ground to hold. Thus far, we haven’t put anywhere near the resources necessary to accomplish this into the fight against ISIS, which means this is more akin to a Barack Obama “red line” than it is to Winston Churchill’s famous exhortation at the beginning of World War II.
That’s not to say we don’t score a few victories:
U.S. coalition forces took out another major ISIS commander this month: Haji Imam, a senior religious leader of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in an operation inside Syria, according to a top defense official.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter, flanked by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford, will announce the operation Friday morning, the official said, speaking anonymously to describe the coalition’s operations.
Haji Imam’s real name is said to be Abd ar-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli. He was considered in line to be second in command for ISIS, though some ISIS watchers say his Turkoman background ruled that out.
That’s fine, and good job in taking him out, but … the Pentagon had thought he’d been killed before, too. This would make better news if we were dealing with a smaller terror network and not an army that holds entire cities and significant ground in Syria and Iraq. The only way to “eliminate[ their] nihilistic beliefs and cowardice from the face of the Earth” is to physically destroy their armies and drive them off of that ground. Picking off commanders one at a time might degrade their performance a bit, but commanders can be replaced — and will, assuming this one’s actually dead now.
In Belgium, more resources are currently being applied in the community of Schaerbeek. Authorities began raids overnight in connection to both the Brussels attack and the terrorist plot to strike France again, foiled two days ago. Blasts have been heard today in the neighborhood:
A major police operation was underway Friday in the Brussels district of Schaerbeek, Belgian public broadcaster RTBF reported.
Witnesses told the broadcaster they heard an explosion, with several reporting gunfire as well.
According to RTBF, the closed-off area was surrounded by heavily armed police and military trucks.
So far, the Belgian counter-terrorism operation has netted six arrests. They will likely have to conduct more of these raids over the next few weeks to root out the entrenched radical Islamist terror cells that have apparently metastasized in Brussels.