Syria: US supporting Syrian anti Assad rebels with airpower

4th Aug 2015
Syria: US supporting Syrian anti Assad rebels with airpower
WASHINGTON (AA): The U.S. is now providing airpower to Syrian rebels trained by Washington and its allies, and will do so against competing rebels as well as Syrian government forces.

The decision by President Barack Obama could potentially further Washington’s stake in the Syrian conflict, and drag the U.S. deeper into ongoing hostilities – something that the Obama administration has been reluctant to do.

Citing anonymous government officials, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. would provide airpower to U.S.-trained Syrian opposition forces in their fight against Daesh, but would also carry out airstrikes against any attackers.

The decision comes as Washington and Ankara prepare to clear Daesh militants from an area along the Turkish-Syrian border; and plan to send rebels that they have been training into the area.

The new rules would apply only to U.S.-trained forces in northern Syria, and would not to U.S.-backed forces in southern Syria.

The Obama administration declined to publicly confirm the report, but a White House official speaking on condition of anonymity, told Anadolu Agency that he would not dismiss the Journal’s report, but said that it overplays the connection to recent talks with Turkey.

The U.S. first carried out airstrikes in support of the Syrian fighters on Friday when they were attacked by the Nusra Front, according to the Journal.

National Security Council spokesman Alistair Baskey said that the Syrian rebels that Washington has been training “are being provided with a wide range of coalition support in their mission to counter-ISIL, which includes defensive fires support to protect them”.

“We won’t get into the specifics of our rules of engagement, but have said all along that we would take the steps necessary to ensure that these forces could successfully carry out their mission,” Baskey said.

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said earlier warnings that Washington issued to the Syrian government when it began to bomb Daesh in Syria applies to protections for U.S.-trained rebels.

“What I’m suggesting is that that same admonition that the Assad regime should not interfere in our counter-ISIL activities also applies to the opposition fighters that we have trained and equipped to fight ISIL,” he said. “So far, the Assad regime has followed that admonition from the United States, and we encourage them to continue to do so.”

He added that the U.S. and its coalition partners are “committed to using military force where necessary to protect the coalition-trained and equiped Syrian opposition fighters that are operating against ISIL inside of Syria right now.”

Author: Michael Hernandez
[Photo: Members of Jaish al-Islam Forces perform digital computation with a ipad on artillery with a howitzer before they attack on Assad Regime Forces in the Jobar area of Damascus, Syria on August 03, 2015. Photographer: Amer Almohibany/Anadolu Agency]

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