U.S. intelligence and military officials say that American spy agencies lack the necessary intelligence needed in Syria to wage a military campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the group responsible for killing American
journalist James Foley.
Daily surveillance flights are conducted by the Defense Department along the Iraq side of the Syrian border for the purpose of gathering information on ISIS, without crossing over to Syria to avoid attacks from Syria's air force, officials told The Washington Post.
Over the last two years, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) increased the number of informants within the country who were trained at secret bases in Jordan.
However, U.S. officials, who spoke to The Post anonymously, said that in spite of these efforts, the United States still has gaps in its intelligence that would make accurate strikes against ISIS leaders difficult.
One senior intelligence official told The Post that "it would probably take some number of months to really build up the necessary intelligence architecture" to be ready to conduct airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who is also a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told The Post that "our intelligence is improving since we began devoting the resources to doing that, but we still have only modest visibility into what is going on in Syria."
While the Defense Department uses drones to track and strike terrorists in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen, the airspace in Syria is well-guarded by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Even though ISIS is an an enemy of Assad, intelligence gathering or strikes against ISIS in Syria could be viewed as a threat against his regime out of fear that information about his forces will be detected.
The U.S. began strikes against ISIS in Iraq in early August, which ISIS cited as the reason for killing Foley. However, the U.S. military has increased the airstrikes in Iraq, and the Obama Administration is now considering moving into Syria.
Several lawmakers support
moving into Syria to defeat ISIS.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday
that he does not believe ISIS can be defeated without attacking the group in Syria, saying that he believes ISIS is an "imminent threat."
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