- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Members of the Islamic State group operating out of Syria have responded to the threat of U.S. airstrikes by going underground. The streets in Raqqa have been cleared of vehicles and the group’s assets have been redeployed to minimize exposure to western intelligence agencies.

“They are trying to keep on the move,” one Raqqa resident told Reuters on Tuesday. “They have sleeper cells everywhere.” The resident spoke on condition of anonymity due to safety concerns.

The news agency’s source added that the Islamic State group now only holds “limited gatherings” to cut down on visibility.

Another resident told Reuters that “Islamic State is now carrying out tactical defensive moves by relocating their assets to different places so that their heavy weaponry is not all concentrated in one place.”

The response by the terrorist group to potential U.S. airstrikes highlights a warning made by Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden last week. During a conference call with reporters on Sept. 11, Gen. Hayden said, “The reliance on air power has all of the attraction of casual sex: It seems to offer gratification but with little commitment. […] We need to be wary of a strategy that puts emphasis on air power and air power alone.”

The Pentagon plans to train 5,000 Syrian rebels per year as part of President Obama’s strategy to root out and destroy the Islamic State group.

On Friday, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, struck a similar note regarding the U.S. coalition’s airstrikes in Iraq. The general said that if the coalition fails in its objectives, then ground troops may be necessary in order to achieve victory.

“To be clear, if we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the president,” said Gen. Dempsey, the Associated Press reported.

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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