Members of Congress Praise Raid That Killed Islamic State Leader in Syria

WASHINGTON (Chicago Tribune/TNS) -

Lawmakers praised the raid that killed an Islamic State official in Syria, but cautioned Sunday that the United States still faces continued turmoil in the Middle East.

Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., a former commander of Navy SEAL Team Six, said the target, Abu Sayyaf, “was not in the top 10” of Islamic State leadership and his death is not “going to change the tide of what’s going on in Syria and the Middle East.”

But Zinke, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, nonetheless called the raid a “great operation” that would be “enormously helpful” to the U.S. campaign against the terrorist group, which controls large parts of Syria and western and northern Iraq. Zinke appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, appeared on the same program and confirmed that Abu Sayyaf was the intended target of the raid. Schiff and other senior lawmakers were briefed on the raid in advance.

“This is the guy that we were trying to get,” Schiff said.

The “very daring operation” in the heart of territory controlled by Islamic State raised questions about whether the intelligence gain was sufficient to justify the risk, Schiff said.

The Delta force unit that carried out the Friday night raid should be applauded “unequivocally,” Schiff said, adding that hard questions still needed to be asked because of the inherent dangers of such missions.

Schiff said he did not want to understate the importance of Abu Sayyaf, who was responsible for the lucrative oil and gas operations that help fund Islamic State. The capture of Abu Sayyaf’s wife may prove to be of intelligence value, as would electronic and other materials seized, he said.