It’s not much of one: three planes and they only flew for a short time, but that it exists at all is evidence that Obama’s campaign to “degrade and destroy” the so-called Islamic State is going swimmingly, right?
Iraqi pilots who have joined Islamic State in Syria are training members of the group to fly in three captured fighter jets, a group monitoring the war said on Friday, saying it was the first time the militant group had taken to the air.
The group, which has seized swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, has been flying the planes over the captured al-Jarrah military airport east of Aleppo, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Reuters was not immediately able to verify the report and U.S. Central Command said it was not aware of Islamic State flying jets in Syria.
U.S-led forces are bombing Islamic State bases in Syria and Iraq. The group has regularly used weaponry captured from the Syrian and Iraqi armies and has overrun several military bases but, if the report is confirmed, this would be the first time it has been able to pilot warplanes.
“They have trainers, Iraqi officers who were pilots before for (former Iraqi president) Saddam Hussein,” Abdulrahman said.
“People saw the flights, they went up many times from the airport and they are flying in the skies outside the airport and coming back,” he said, citing witnesses in northern Aleppo province near the base, which is 70 km (45 miles) south of the Turkish border.
Witnesses reported the flights were at a low altitude and only lasted five to 10 minutes before landing, the Observatory said. It was not possible to reach the Syrian government for comment and state media did not mention the report.
It was not clear whether the jets were equipped with weaponry or whether the pilots could fly longer distances in the planes, which witnesses said appeared to be MiG 21 or MiG 23 models captured from the Syrian military.
For what it’s worth, it’s not at all clear how long they can keep these operational, given the need for maintenance, fuel, and spare parts, but it shouldn’t exist at all. Were Obama running a serious campaign to destroy ISIS, and not just a desultory, diffident, really wishes he were golfing instead “war,” these refugees from a 7th century insane asylum would be already dead or fleeing for the hills.
But that would require having a president who understood American interests and was willing to defend them. Hopefully we’ll find one in 2016.
And hopefully ISIS won’t have a Space Corps by then.