On Friday the US Defense Department identified three out of the four Americans that were killed this week as a result of an ISIS suicide bombing in the northern Syrian city of Manbij.
According to an official DoD press release, the three US. military personnel were identified as Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician Shannon M. Kent, 35 and Scott A. Wirtz. The fourth American that was killed, whose name has yet to be released, is believed to be a military contractor that was working inside Syria.
The terrorist attack which targeted a street-side restaurant killed over 20 people, including four Americans that were present in the area at the time. The restaurant had been known to host meetings of US and French soldiers, and local Kurdish leaders, and was reputed as a favorite spot for the Americans based in Manbij who've been advising Kurdish forces.
A source had told Turkey's TRT World in the immediate aftermath of the blast, "The explosion took place inside a restaurant where US, French troops, and YPG militants were meeting."
The New York Times has described the location, Palace of the Princes restaurant, as a well-known and highly visible place "frequented" by American personnel. American troop patrols would routinely stop at the location, per the NYT report: "They stop here for chicken and shawarma whenever they have a patrol in the city," Jassim al-Khalaf, a local produce seller, said. "People here are used to it, so it's not a new thing to see them."
Residents told the Times that it was common to see the Americans park their vehicles in front of the establishment to dine-in as well as get take out.
The accounts described by the locals stands in real contrast to the US military's advice for troops who deploy into active war zones. — Business Insider
Also alarming in what was clearly an overly lax security situation is that US lawmakers who made prior visits to US-occupied parts of Syria, including Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, visited the establishment and nearby outdoor marketplace in July while wearing no body armor.
On the same day of the attack, an Islamic State-affiliated web site, Amaq, boasted of a successful suicide attack targeting a "foreign military patrol," describing a lone attacker on foot wearing a suicide vest.
Manbij has been held by US-backed Kurdish forces since the YPG Kurdish militia took it back from ISIS in 2016. It has for the past two years seen a significant US troop, special forces, and patrol presence, and has at least one known small American base.
Meanwhile, Syria hawks on both sides of the aisle have used the tragedy to slam President Trump's decision to pull out, saying his statements that "ISIS has been defeated" have been proven wrong.
However, it appears that the remnants of ISIS, which over the past year has been largely driven underground, also wants the Americans to stay, given they chose to conduct the attack at the very moment American troops were set to exit the country.