White House Confirms Beheading of Third American Held by IS Militants



Peter Kassig



The White House Sunday confirmed the beheading of American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig, formerly known as Peter Kassig, the third American to be decapitated in Syria by Islamic State militants. The latest execution occurred as the top U.S. military official met with senior Iraqi and Kurdish officials and the U.S. began advising and training Iraqi security forces in restive western Anbar province





In a statement, President Barack Obama offered prayers and condolences to the parents and family of Kassig, whose life “was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity.” The White House said that while IS “revels in the slaughter of innocents,” Kassig “was a humanitarian who worked to save the lives of Syrians injured and dispossessed by the Syrian conflict.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who lauds Kassig for his service as an Army Ranger in Iraq, said he was a humanitarian who sought to ease the suffering of others
"I think the fact that he went back to help the people he saw that needed help says everything about who he was and what he believed.  There are people who have extraordinary values and principles in their lives like Peter Kassig did and he applied that, and it cost him his life," said Hagel

The 26-year-old Kassig, who witnessed the suffering of the Syrian people while visiting the region as a college student in 2012, was captured in eastern Syria in October 2013 while delivering relief supplies for Special Emergency Relief and Assistance, the aid group he founded 
He is the fifth Westerner to be beheaded by IS
The militant Sunni group executed American journalists James Foley and Stephen Sotloff, and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning
Kassig’s parents, Ed and Paula of Indianapolis, Indiana, who pleaded in a video last month to IS to spare their son’s life, said they were heartbroken by the news
Appearing Sunday on U.S. television, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel stands with the U.S. in the battle against IS

"We support President Obama in leading this coalition [against IS]. It has to be fought. ISIS has to be defeated and it can be defeated," said Netanyahu
The Israeli leader said the Middle East is "awash in militant Islamists," Sunni and Shi’ite, and, in a reference to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, added that they must not be allowed to acquire weapons of mass destruction
The U.S. is stepping up its training and advising mission of Iraqi forces battling IS fighters with plans to train up to 12 brigades, including nine Iraqi units and three comprised of Kurdish peshmerga fighters
The top U.S. military official, General Martin Dempsey, met with Iraqi Kurdish officials Sunday in Irbil after holding talks in Baghdad with members of Iraq’s central government, including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi
RAND Corporation senior political scientist Rick Brennan, a career Army officer, said he believes Dempsey is carrying two messages

One is that the United States is here [in Iraq] to provide the type of assistance the Iraqi security forces need in order to develop the capabilities that have atrophied over the last several years. The other message I think he’s trying to emphasize [is] the great need for the Shi’ite-led government to reach out and mend bridges with the Sunni populace. If you go back to the 2005-2006 time period, one of the great successes the United States military had was driving a wedge between the Sunni populace and the predecessor [of] ISIS, al-Qaida in Iraq," said Brennan
Brennan said U.S. forces now operating in Anbar province hope to re-establish that wedge lost during the tenure of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He said their presence at Ain al-Asad airbase is significant. He said it was envisioned as a training facility, had U.S. forces been allowed to stay past 2011
Although U.S. troops were withdrawn, he expects the base to allow the more rapid training of Iraqi security forces. Following the announcement earlier this month President Obama authorized deployment of another 1,500 U.S. troops to Iraq, Brennan said the Obama administration is finally taking actions that should have been implemented months ago. He said the fight against IS will take more U.S. forces than are on the ground now
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