WASHINGTON - ISIS has been seizing territory in Iraq and Syria with the goal of forming an Islamic state. U.S. forces have hit ISIS targets in Iraq. Syria could be next.
The surveillance missions scheduled to begin flying over Syria as early as Tuesday are a major step toward launching airstrikes against ISIS bases there. A senior Pentagon official said one of the primary objectives of the missions is to determine how ISIS commands and controls its forces - who are its senior leaders, and how do they communicate?
Syria has warned the U.S. not to fly over its territory, but its air defenses are trained on its archenemy, Israel, and are not considered a serious threat in the part of the country where American planes will be flying.
U.S. intelligence has already flown spy missions over Syria without losing any aircraft.
President Barack Obama has not yet approved airstrikes inside Syria, but he warned Tuesday that ISIS -- or ISIL, as he called it -- will not be easily defeated.
"Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won't be easy, and it won't be quick," Mr. Obama said.
American airstrikes have succeeded in stopping the advance of ISIS in Iraq, but it continues to make gains on the other side of the border in Syria.
A propaganda video of an ISIS attack on a Syrian military base starts with a suicide truck bomb, followed by heavy weapons fire and an assault with small arms, ending with the capture of Russian-made weapons.
It is unclear when Obama will make a decision about airstrikes in Syria. The U.S.military flew around-the-clock surveillance over Iraq for seven weeks before finally launching strikes there.