According to U.S. Central Command, ISIS was not responsible for taking down a Jordanian warplane over Syria. Though CENTCOM did not offer an alternative explanation for the plane’s failure, they did concede that Islamic State forces had captured the Jordanian pilot who safely ejected from his failing aircraft near the Islamic State stronghold city of Raqqa.
The demoralizing effect that this development might have had on America’s critical Arab ally in the war against ISIS was clearly evident to U.S. commanders. “The Jordanians are highly respected and valued partners and their pilots and crews have performed exceptionally well over the course of this campaign,” said U.S. Central Command Gen. Lloyd Austin in a short statement on the incident.
It seems that CENTCOM was right to worry about the effect that this event would have on their regional ally in the campaign against ISIS. According to a report via AFP, the captured Jordanian pilot is talking to his captors and offering up details of coalition war strategy.
“In the comments attributed to the pilot, he says his plane was hit by a heat-seeking missile, endorsing the jihadist group’s version of events, which has been rejected by both Jordan and the United States,” an AFP report on an ISIS’s “interview” with the Jordanian pilot read.
In it, he is quoted as discussing how the air strikes in Syria are coordinated between the countries of the U.S.-led coalition.
He says his role was to destroy anti-aircraft weapons on the ground and to provide cover for the strike aircraft.
Whether or not the first coalition aircraft to be lost in the war against ISIS was taken out of the sky by enemy fire, it has resulted in Jordan’s decision to halt combat missions over Syrian territory.
“We have temporarily frozen our involvement in bombing the site of ISIS right now, after [Jordanian pilot Moaz al] Kasasbeh has been captured,” Jordanian MP Rula Al Hroob told NPR on Tuesday. “This should not be a permanent decision, as I believe, but, perhaps, a kind of step back to think and reflect and get the deal done with.”
When asked about the effect that Kasasbeh’s capture has had on Jordanian morale, Hroob confessed that it was not insignificant.
Well, actually, we have the people who were strongly against our involvement in this war, get more stronger now, because they’re talking about a thousand Kasasbeh to come if we continue participating in this war. We have the strong supporters of ISIS. They’re still in their place, but, for the undecided. Now they’re shifting a little bit towards being more enthusiastic of at least getting revenge from ISIS in case they kill Lieutenant Kasasbeh.
Hopefully, Hroob’s claim that the cessation of combat missions is only temporary proves true. The fragile coalition engaged in the fight against ISIS in Syria needs all the Arab members it can get.