Arab Coalition Intensifies Attacks on ISIS as UAE Rejoins Fight

Jordanian Air Force fighter jets fly during the funeral of slain Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, at his home village of Ai, near Karak, Jordan, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
Jordanian Air Force fighter jets fly during the funeral of slain Jordanian pilot, Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh, at his home village of Ai, near Karak, Jordan, Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Arab members of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS have increased the intensity of their attacks against the Islamic militant group in wake of the group's horrific murder of a downed Jordanian pilot by burning him alive, U.S. Central Command officials said.

Middle Eastern countries involved in the campaign are increasingly willing to conduct airstrikes, train Iraqi government ground forces, and have even considered sending in ground troops to attack the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) -- all in reaction to killing of the Jordanian pilot.

Arab nations which have conducted airstrikes against ISIS militants in Syria include the U.S., Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. U.S. officials said there are also members of the coalition that have aided in the ongoing military effort but do not wish to be identified publicly.  

Jordan's King Abdullah has publically vowed revenge against ISIS while his country has intensified airstrikes against the group in recent days. The Jordanian king has even personally conducted airstrikes against ISIS, according to multiple reports.

The UAE announced Saturday that it is sending a squadron of F-16s fighter jets to Jordan, resuming its participation in U.S.-led airstrikes on ISIS.  The UAE had suspended its involvement in airstrikes after the Jordanian pilot had gone missing and UAE officials expressed concerns about the lack of necessary resources to rescue downed pilots.

The UAE's news agency released a statement saying the renewed effort to attack ISIS was designed to stop "the brutal terrorist organization that showed all of the world its ugliness…through abominable crimes that exposed its false allegations and drew outrage and disgust from Arab peoples."

The statements also said the UAE actions were inspired by a "deep belief in the need for Arab collective cooperation to eliminate terrorism…through the collective encountering of these terrorist gangs and their misleading ideology and brutal practices."

State Department spokeswoman Jen Pskai told reporters that U.S. and Jordanian leader recently met and welcomed the UAE decision to base some of its F-16s in Jordan. The UAE operates ultra-modern F-16 Block 60s with improved avionics and targeting technology.

Also, greater emphasis is now being placed on the rapid use of coalition assets for rapid-rescue of downed pilots over Iraq and Syria in light of the downed Jordanian pilot. UAE officials have asked the U.S. to supply V-22 Osprey aircraft to support rescue and recovery efforts for downed pilots.

It's not just Arab countries that are increasing their efforts to defeat ISIS. Following the murder of the Jordanian pilot, the United Kingdom has committed to sending troops to train Iraqi Security Forces, CentCom officials said.

This development occurs as the U.S. has reported substantial progress on the ground made by Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi Security Forces fighting ISIS near Mosul, Iraq. Peshmerga forces have seized three bridgeheads on the west bank of the Tigris River, north of Mosul in areas previously held by ISIS, a CentCom statement said.

"Kurdish Peshmerga Forces now hold the gains they have made and are postured to retake additional territory from Daesh (ISIS) in the vicinity of Mosul," a CentCom statement said.

The overall international effort, called Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, provided airstrikes on enemy positions near Mosul, in support of the Iraqi Government's fight against ISIS.

"This most recent Peshmerga Operation is yet another example of how Daesh (ISIS) can be defeated militarily using a combination of well led and capable ground forces enabled by Coalition Aviation and Advise and Assist capabilities."  Lt. Gen. James Terry, CJTF-OIR Commander.

Meanwhile, more than 20 members of the joint task force supporting the U.S.-led coalition of nations fighting against ISIS held a summit conference in Southwest Asia Feb. 3 to 4 to discuss progress in the overall campaign, CentCom officials said.

"We continue to broaden our collective views of the mission and maintain the tremendous collaboration we've shared to date," said Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, commanding general of the CJTF-OIR.

Coalition nations which have conducted airstrikes in Iraq include the U.S., Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, according to Central Command.  

In addition to airstrikes, coalition advise and assist teams continue to provide operational and intelligence assistance to Kurdish Security Forces which further enables them to successfully conduct offensive operations, CentCom officials said.

-- Kris Osborn can be reached at kris.osborn@military.com

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