- The Washington Times - Friday, February 6, 2015

Jordan’s expansive and deadly air campaign against the Islamic State following the murder of a young jet pilot is expected to end within the next few days, military officials said Friday.

Jordan beefed up its military operations against the Islamic extremist group after it captured 21-year-old First Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh and burned him to death in a cage. Islamic State militants were able to grab Mr. al-Kasasbeh after he crashed his jet in Syria in December. Video footage of his murder was made public on Tuesday, while Jordanian King Abdullah II was visiting U.S. officials in Washington.

In response, Jordan tripled the number of F-16 jets it had on the battlefield and began pummeling Islamic State militants with gravity bombs, military officials said.

Up until recently, Jordan was sending only 2-to-6 jets at a time to support the military operations of a U.S.-led international coalition that has been conducting airstrikes over Iraq and Syria, a senior Pentagon official said. But after Tuesday, Jordan began using roughly half of its jet fleet to lead large-scale operations Iraq and Syria, a second Pentagon official said.

About 20 Jordanian jets and 21 U.S. warplanes — including drones, jets with jamming radars and tanker aircraft — have been working together to decimate Islamic State storage facilities containing ammunition and supplies, military officials said.

“For Jordan, this is an exponential increase in the number of aircraft committed to a single strike mission,” the first Pentagon official said.

Although the Jordanian government has not indicated how long it will keep up its expanded air campaign, military sources say the government will likely taper back their lethal response to the death of First Lt. al-Kasasbeh in under a week. Until then, U.S. officials are capitalizing on the expanded air campaign and using that momentum to deliver lethal blows to militant facilities and fighter locations in the two countries, the official said.

“These are targets that needed to be serviced,” the official said. “They are legitimate Islamic State logistics facilities.”


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