Tags: ISIS/Islamic State | John McCain | Syria | airstrikes | isis | syria | rebels

US to Allow Syrian Rebels to Call for Anti-ISIS Airstrikes

By    |   Wednesday, 18 February 2015 07:52 AM

The U.S. is planning to allow select Sunni rebel groups in Syria to radio in requests for American airstrikes against Islamic State targets, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Kurdish forces inside Iraq already have the means of calling for U.S. airstrikes which aided them in liberating Kobani from ISIS.

The fighting inside Syria is more complicated, because Sunni rebels there are also battling the Assad regime which is backed by Shiite Iran and Hezbollah.

Kurdish forces called in airstrikes against fixed ISIS positions inside Iraq. In the Syrian theater, rebels would likely need support against harder-to-hit moving targets, the Journal reported.

The Obama administration has been pressed by some Republicans in Congress to ramp up support for so-called moderate Syrian rebels.

The U.S. has plans to start training up to 3,000 fighters, beginning as early as March, in Jordan and Turkey. It is these forces which, outfitted with machine gun-mounted pickup trucks and GPS communications gear, would be authorized to call for B-1B bombers to launch airstrikes against ISIS. The planes can target moving objects as small as motorcycles, the Journal reported.

The resupply of these forces, paying their salaries, and access to continued airstrikes would be contingent on them remaining faithful to the mission as defined by the United States, officials told the Journal.

The CIA has been clandestinely training some Sunni forces, providing trusted gunmen with antitank weapons. The administration still has to decide whether to provide similar sophisticated arms to the new forces.

U.S. military experts do not expect that these forces will ever outnumber Islamic State fighters or Assad's army. That is why Washington wants them to have advanced training and be backed up by U.S. warplanes, the Journal reported.

Pentagon strategists believe that for airpower to have its intended effect, the U.S. needs to have friendly forces on the ground, the Journal reported.

It is not clear what would happen if U.S.-trained forces asked for airstrikes against Assad's troops.

Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, are among lawmakers who want the U.S. to make the skies over Syria safe from Assad's air threat.

One view is that failure to target Assad's forces and only take on ISIS could empower Shiite extremists backed by Iran and Hezbollah.

The opposing position is that the U.S. is not at war with Syria and that now is not the time to rupture the anti-ISIS coalition. Going after Assad could also expose U.S. forces in the region to attacks from Shiite forces loyal to Tehran, the Journal reported.

Meanwhile, Syria said it would consider halting aerial bombing in Aleppo against jihadi forces in the rebel-held western area of the city, Sky News reported.

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The U.S. is planning to allow select Sunni rebel groups in Syria to radio in requests for American airstrikes against Islamic State targets, The Wall Street Journal reported.
airstrikes, isis, syria, rebels, assad
Wednesday, 18 February 2015 07:52 AM
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