Sunday, August 9, 2015

Obama authorizes bombing of any groups that attack US-trained rebels in Syria

President Barack Obama has authorized the bombing of any forces that attack US-trained rebels. This could include attacks by troops loyal to President Assad of Syria.
 
This marks a considerable increase in US involvement in the Syrian civil war, since up to now, Obama has not authorized bombing of Assad's forces. The Wall Street Journal first reported the new policy.
While the officially reported aim of US air strikes in Syria has been to combat the Islamic State, from the very first it has gone beyond that with attacks on the Al-Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front. These attacks angered virtually all the other rebel groups since the Front has often been a key player in battles against Assad forces. It has also fought against the Islamic State. The result has been that the Front now attacks rebel groups it believes are trained or armed by the US.
The Nusra Front claims responsibility for capturing members from Division 30 in Aleppo province early last week and also an attack on the unit's base on Friday that is said to have killed 5 rebels and wounded another 18. US bombs and the clashes also reportedly killed 18 members of the Front. So far Syrian air defence units have not threatened allied bombers as they attack the Islamic State and Al Nusra. If those planes attack Syrian troops for whatever reason Assad might try to shoot them down. However, this might risk the US deciding to take out his entire air defence system so perhaps he might hold off until he sees how frequently his forces come under US attack. A senior military official said on Sunday: “For offensive operations, it’s ISIS only. But if attacked, we’ll defend them against anyone who’s attacking them. We’re not looking to engage the regime, but we’ve made a commitment to help defend these people.”If the rebels attack Assad forces, as they very well might, naturally the Assad regime will fight back. However, the rebels trained by the US are supposed to have as their first priority fighting the Islamic State. If those rebels do so then the Assad forces may leave them alone and not provoke any bombings of their forces by the US. So far the US has avoided direct confrontation with Assad forces. Russia said that any US attacks against Assad forces would further destabilize the situation.
A time-line of the US training program is given in this article. Although the program planned to train up to 5,400 fighters a year, so far there appear to be fewer than 60 fighters trained and in Syria. They barely arrived when attacked by Al Nusra Front. Among those captured by the the Front were the group's commander. Many rebel groups especially Islamists are becoming increasingly hostile to the US-trained rebels since most other rebels have as their first priority defeat of Assad.


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