As the world still reels from the execution of American photojournalist James Foley, the Department of Defense revealed some new information on the dire hostage situation in Syria. According to the DoD, the U.S. military tried rescuing Foley and other American hostages held by terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, but the operation failed. Most of the details about the operation remain secret, but the Defense Department said that it will continue to "work tirelessly" to bring the American hostages home.
Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said Wednesday in a statement:
The United States attempted a rescue operation recently to free a number of American hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). This operation involved air and ground components and was focused on a particular captor network within ISIL. Unfortunately, the mission was not successful because the hostages were not present at the targeted location.
As we have said repeatedly, the United States government is committed to the safety and well-being of its citizens, particularly those suffering in captivity. In this case, we put the best of the United States military in harms' way to try and bring our citizens home.
Kirby added that the Defense Department "will not tolerate the abduction" of Americans. He did not elaborate on how the agency will move forward after Foley's execution, but said the U.S. government will use "the full breadth of our military, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities" to secure the remaining hostages held captive by ISIS.
According to Reuters, Pentagon officials did not give a timeframe for the rescue mission. However, Lisa Monaco, a White House counterterrorism aide, said in a separate statement that President Barack Obama authorized the operation "earlier this summer."
The national security team assessed the situation, and concluded that "these hostages were in danger with each passing day in ISIL custody," Monaco said. She added that they had "sufficient evidence" at the time of the mission, but didn't elaborate on what the evidence entailed.
Earlier on Wednesday, Obama condemned both Foley's execution and the violence ISIS has wrought throughout Syria and Iraq. "Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers," the president said. He described ISIS as a "cancer" that must be eradicated from the region, so the people of Syria and Iraq can live freely.
Not long after Obama's White House press conference on Wednesday, the U.S. military initiated another round of airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, the Pentagon said. The airstrikes, which used remotely piloted fighter planes, targeted the area around Mosul Dam in northern Iraq. Since Aug. 8, the U.S. military has carried out more than 80 airstrikes in Iraq, a majority of which targeted the Mosul Dam region.
Foley, who hailed from Rochester, New Hampshire, was captured by terrorists nearly two years ago while on assignment. He was 40 years old.